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April 17, 2014

Farm Bill Whip Count Will Depend on Amendments, Hoyer Says

House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer is pushing Republicans to give votes to Democrats’ amendments for the GOP’s farm bill if they want his vote and those of many other Democrats.

The Maryland Democrat continued to raise doubts about whether the bill would have the votes to pass. The farm bill is opposed by an array of conservative advocacy groups and is one of Speaker John A. Boehner’s first big tests this year.

“There are 227 amendments that are going to be filed,” Hoyer said, adding that he would “reserve judgment” on the bill until the Rules Committee determines which amendments would be brought up for votes.

Hoyer said Democrats are nearly united in opposition to the $20.5 billion in cuts over a decade in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps, and want the chance to vote on amendments, such as one being offered by Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., that would mitigate the cuts. Whether Democrats have a chance to vote on that amendment could determine a swath of his party’s support.

There are also Democrats, led by Rep. Collin C. Peterson of Minnesota, the top Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee, who will vote for the bill to get the legislation to conference, Hoyer acknowledged. The Senate passed its version of the farm bill June 10. It contained a much smaller $4 billion cut to SNAP. Hoyer characterized that bill as a “balanced package.”

At the Democratic Caucus meeting Tuesday morning, Hoyer said, “there was … a sentiment expressed by Mr. Peterson and others that there were some good things about this bill and have a high degree of confidence, personally, that the Senate would stick to its figure on the SNAP.”

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