The House on Thursday failed to advance legislation funding the U.S. Department of Agriculture after lawmakers on both sides expressed concerns over significant cuts and policy riders containing abortion-related language.
The 2024 funding bill for the USDA and U.S. Food and Drug Administration failed on a 191 to 237 vote, with 27 Republicans voting against. The failed vote came as the House was able to approve spending bills for three other agencies including the U.S. Department of Defense, though they may face tough prospects in the Senate.
Far-right Republicans proposed significant cuts to the USDA budget, and earlier this week held a marathon legislative session to add a number of amendments that further restrict funds and undermine the agency's climate initiatives. The bill also contained language for FDA funding that would ban mail delivery of the abortion pill mifepristone, a nonstarter for Democrats.
"This legislation should have a toxic hazard warning on it," Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schwartz, a Democrat from Florida, said during a floor debate on Wednesday. "This bill exactly exemplifies the ugliest of all values if it takes food from the mouths of the hungry, if it blocks women's reproductive care, and if it cuts funds to American farmers."
The spending bill doesn't impact the looming government shutdown, which requires Congress to reach a full-year funding agreement or short-term extension before Sunday. Earlier this summer, President Joe Biden said he would veto the USDA and FDA spending bill if presented with it, noting cuts to farm loan programs, renewable energy funding and other popular initiatives among farmers.
House Republicans on Wednesday voted to add even more cuts and budget restrictions to the funding bill. Among other things, lawmakers approved measures banning the USDA from using money on climate initiatives, in addition to policy riders that slashed funding for international food assistance under the Office of Food for Peace and the McGovern-Dole program.
Republicans that voted against the USDA and FDA funding bill included moderates on the House Agriculture Committee.
As the House focused on advancing individual spending bills this week, the Senate scrambled to forge ahead with a stopgap funding measure to keep the government running. A shutdown would furlough hundreds of thousands of government employees in addition to disrupting commodity loan programs and food assistance under the Women, Infants and Children program.