Monday, October 7, 2013

Joe B. Garza: Republicans Buck the Establishment

In June, the U.S. House of Representatives rejected a five-year, $500 billion dollar farm bill. While the federal farm bill has traditionally been a bipartisan endeavor and has addressed food stamp spending in addition to farm subsidies, it ran into problems this year and ultimately resulted in an embarrassment to the Republican leadership, which backed the bill. Many Republicans objected to the $80 billion in spending on the federal food stamp program that has exploded in size in the last five years. Many Democrats, in contrast, opposed the bill because it implemented slight cuts to the food stamp program. In addition, many members of both parties are increasingly critical of farm subsidies, viewing them as inefficient, or alternatively, as special interest welfare.

The final vote was 195-234. Most of the 62 Republicans who voted against the bill are first or second-term members (more than 45 percent of the Republicans in the House are freshmen or sophomores). The willingness of junior Republican House members to defy their party’s leadership on the farm bill is enough to raise eyebrows, but it may be a precursor to an even bigger spat in the near future.

After the August recess, the House will take up the immigration bill the Senate passed earlier this year. The Republican establishment is hopeful that an immigration reform bill can pass, which it believes would help the party’s prospects with Hispanic voters. Opposition to the bill, however, runs high in many Republican districts. Because of gerrymandering and incumbent advantages, many Republican congressmen are elected from conservative districts. Citizens in these districts do not see eye to eye with the Republican leadership on a variety of issues, including immigration. The willingness of the junior Republicans to defy their leadership suggests that they are more concerned about a primary challenge than a general election challenge in 2014.

For more on Joe B. Garza, visit some of his other work online.