Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.), the chair of the subcommittee that crafted the House GOP’s annual agriculture funding bill, is casting doubt on the legislation’s chances of passage this month amid divisions on abortion and spending.
House Republicans had hoped to pass their remaining annual government funding bills by a looming Nov. 17 deadline to prevent a shutdown, as the party works to strengthen its hand in spending talks with the Democratic-led Senate.
But the party’s agriculture funding bill, which House Republicans failed to pass earlier this year, is again posing a hurdle to the party’s ambitious efforts to approve all 12 funding bills.
In remarks to The Hill on Friday, Harris said he doesn’t “see a way that we can bring it back to the floor,” adding he thinks the House is “just going to have to go to conference with the Senate with what we have.”
While Harris said it’s up to GOP leadership “as to whether or not they want to attempt to bring the bill back,” he also noted the dug-in positions of members on a portion of the bill that seeks to limit access to the abortion pill mifepristone.
“There are members who have said, look, they can’t vote for that bill with the mifepristone language in and there are a whole lot more members who said they can’t vote for that bill with the mifepristone language out,” Harris said. “There is no solution to it.”
“So, that means, let’s go to conference with what we have and bring a conferenced product back to the floor,” he added.
House GOP leadership tried to pass the bill in September, but the vote failed after moderates came out against the measure over the abortion proposal and amid intraparty disagreements over spending cuts.
A summary of the bill — which funds agencies like the Department of Agriculture, the Food and Drug Administration, and USDA Rural Development — released by Republicans earlier this year touted a host of spending cuts, including in areas like the Special Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) and climate change research.
Some members were hopeful of seeing the bill reworked after Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) assumed the top gavel earlier this month. Ahead of his election to the leadership post, Johnson also proposed a “working group to address member concerns” with the bill in hopes of passing the legislation later this month.
But Harris cast doubt on the bill’s chances of passage even if “some of the spending issues are addressed” amid abortion divides.
“My advice is that would be futile,” Harris said of the prospects of a floor vote on the agriculture funding bill this month, while also pointing to time constraints Congress faces in adverting a shutdown this month and striking an overall deal on funding for fiscal 2024.
“The Senate [has passed] only three bills. We’re way ahead of them in that. It’s time to go to conference. We’re over a month past the Oct. 1 deadline where we were supposed to have all this resolved,” he said.