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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Defeat of farm bill in U.S. House a letdown for McMorris Rodgers

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers said Friday she was “surprised and disappointed” by the vote that killed the $500 billion farm bill in the U.S. House of Representatives.

“We thought we had reached that sweet spot where we had the support of enough Republicans and enough Democrats to get the bill out of the House,” said McMorris Rodgers, a high-ranking leader in that chamber as the GOP Conference chair.

But the bid fell short, with only 24 Democrats voting for the package, which provides insurance money to growers, helps establish foreign and domestic markets for crop trade and – most significantly – funds the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the low-income food support program that replaced food stamps in 2008. Spending on the assistance program reaches almost $80 billion annually, and despite significant SNAP cuts in the House version, 62 Republicans, including Rep. Raul Labrador of Idaho, voted against the bill.

McMorris Rodgers said Republican leadership thought they had enough Democrats to carry the bill.

“There was an agreement over how many votes the Democrats were going to provide on the final passage vote, and they came in well below what they had promised,” McMorris Rodgers said.

The failure to get a bill out of the House leaves in limbo a number of programs that affect more than just growers and low-income families in the Inland Northwest. The massive legislation also provides money for the construction and maintenance of roads and power and telephone lines in rural areas as well as construction of facilities at tribal colleges.

The funding extension forged in last year’s fiscal cliff deal is set to run out Sept. 30. McMorris Rodgers said the ball is already rolling on bringing another bill to the floor for a vote.

“That continues to be my goal,” she said.

In town for the weekend, McMorris Rodgers also said immigration reform is a priority in the House, as is a deal to avoid a doubling of student loan interest rates on July 1. In May, the House passed a bill that would tie student loan interest rates to U.S. Treasury notes. The plan is similar to one proposed by President Barack Obama in the budget plan he released in April, though some have criticized the caps on those rates as too high.

“I do hope we can figure this out, because I don’t want students to live in fear of the interest rate doubling,” McMorris Rodgers said.

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