Republicans signaled late Tuesday that the House farm bill debate is likely to spill into next week as the leadership copes with scores of amendment requests and unrelated changes in the floor schedule.
Shortly before midnight, the House Rules Committee approved a resolution making in order more than 100 amendments. Most will have just 10 minutes for debate, but as a practical matter, the leadership would have to show a lot more flexibility about the floor schedule to finish the farm bill this week.
The sudden shift upset top members of the House Agriculture Committee, fearful of leaving the giant bill exposed over the weekend. But Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) told POLITICO he was confident still of winning passage.
“I try to stay in the lanes, so ask Eric that question,” McCarthy said, sending a reporter back to Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s office. “But I don’t think it changes the outcome.”
General farm bill debate opened Tuesday afternoon, and Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) had envisioned beginning amendments as early as 10 a.m. Wednesday and working well into the night. He knew he faced a 3 p.m. deadline Thursday, the time at which House members had been promised they can leave for the weekend. But Lucas and his ranking Democrat, Minnesota Rep. Collin Peterson, felt the task was doable.
Late Tuesday, Lucas was told that because of other scheduling considerations, the farm bill will not be back up until about 2:30 Wednesday afternoon. This leaves a very narrow window to make any progress since Cantor was pushing back against allowing votes after 7 p.m. Wednesday according to a GOP aide.
On top of that, the sheer number of amendments was straining resources at the Congressional Budget Office to come up scores on their spending impact.
“I don’t know if I would let it hang out there over the weekend,” laughed Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), who helped shepherd the last farm bill through the House in 2007 and 2008.
“Between sugar and dairy, anything can happen,” he told POLITICO. “Milk and honey. Milk and honey.”