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House kills its own farm bill

Associated Press

It was widely assumed that the House would pass its version of the farm bill this afternoon. In fact, it was such a foregone conclusion, most of the speculation was what was likely to happen when the House and Senate versions went to conference.

But to the surprise of nearly everyone, the lower chamber rejected its farm bill.

The House failed to pass a major farm bill on Thursday after most Democrats joined with a handful of conservatives to scuttle the nearly $1 trillion legislation.

The House voted 195-234 to defeat the bill, which had been expected to pass. The Senate has already passed its own farm legislation.

Democrats, who were angry about the legislation's cuts to food stamp programs, largely opposed the measure. Conservative groups like the Club for Growth and the Koch Brothers-linked Americans for Prosperity had meanwhile ratcheted up pressure on Republican lawmakers to oppose the legislation.

Update: here's the roll call of today's vote.

From a progressive perspective, it's hard to shed tears over the bill's demise -- this was an awful, needlessly punitive piece of legislation. Its GOP proponents, without so much as a hint of shame, were a little too eager to redistribute wealth in the wrong direction -- punishing poor families and rewarding wealthy agricultural interests -- and their efforts to slash funds for food stamps bordered on cruel.

To be sure, even if the House had passed its bill, it wasn't going far given the scope of the opposition from Senate Democrats and an unambiguous veto threat from the Obama White House.

But the real takeaway here is that the House Republican leadership, once again, failed miserably: "The House defeated the farm bill resoundingly ... dealing another blow to Speaker John A. Boehner as he continues to struggle to move legislation opposed by conservative interest groups."

Keep in mind, the Speaker was heavily invested in this, personally intervening during the debate, urging his colleagues to follow his lead on stripping dairy subsidies from the bill. The amendment was successful, leaving Boehner feeling pretty good -- right up until the overall bill fell far short, catching him off-guard.

As for what happens now, it's not entirely clear, but the next move will probably be a temporary extension of the status quo, while GOP leaders redouble their efforts to learn how to count to 218.