Congress Passes Farm Bill By Margin That Would Override Veto

May 15, 2008

WASHINGTON (May 15, 2008) — After weeks of veto threats from the White House, lawmakers handed President Bush a stunning defeat this week by passing the farm bill by a veto proof margin.

The U.S. House of Representatives was expected to be a major battleground, with farm bill supporters and opponents lobbying hard for every vote. But when the dust settled yesterday afternoon, the final tally of 318-106 was far more lopsided than anyone predicted.

With nearly three-quarters of House Members voting for the farm bill, farm policy opponents would have to convince 29 legislators to change their vote in order to sustain a veto.

“After this vote, it’s pretty much clear that we can override,” House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) told reporters following the vote.

Upholding a veto would be even more difficult in the Senate, where 81 Senators today voted for the bill. The Senate would only need 67 votes to override a Bush veto.

Compounding the problem for opponents of the measure is the fact that they could actually lose ground in a second vote. Sens. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) and Barack Obama (D-Ill.), who weren’t able to cast a vote because they were on the Presidential campaign trail, both issued statements of support for the farm bill.

And at least one House member who voted against the farm bill yesterday indicated that he would switch his vote if a veto override were necessary.

“If the President decides to follow through, I will be there voting to override him because we need this update for our nation’s [farm] policy,” Congressman Robin Hayes (R-N.C.) said from the House floor. Hayes voted against the bill to protest a provision regarding trade relations with Haiti.

The recently passed farm bill also has the backing of most major agriculture, nutrition, and conservation groups. More than 500 organizations sent a letter to Congress earlier this week saying that the bill “makes significant farm policy reforms, protects the safety net for America’s food producers, addresses important infrastructure needs for specialty crops, increases funding to feed our nation’s poor, and enhances support for important conservation initiatives.”

When the farm bill reaches the White House, President Bush will have 10 days to veto or sign it. If he does not, the bill will automatically become law.