House and Senate Override Farm Bill Veto

Fourteen titles of bill become law; completing re-vote to include trade title will happen in June.

Published on: May 23, 2008

Congress moved quickly Thursday to repair a procedural error that threatened the new farm bill, but the final action on the complete package will have to wait until Congress returns to Washington from the Memorial Day recess.

Meanwhile, it appears that 14 titles of the Farm Bill became law when the Senate joined the House in overriding the President's veto of the new farm bill, H.R. 2419 Thursday afternoon 82-13. The House overrode the veto on Wednesday on a 316-108 vote.

Congress was thrown into disarray Wednesday when it was discovered that the trade title was missing, and only 14 titles of H.R. 2419, the new farm bill, were sent for the President's signature. That created a legal dilemma because the bill that the President vetoed, and which the Congress overrode, was not the exact bill as originally passed.

The error sent the bill into uncharted water. House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, said the constitutionality of a vote on a bill that was not whole was unclear, and he unsuccessfully urged a delay in Wednesday's override vote.

Late Wednesday evening, Democratic leaders decided the bill could not be salvaged by re-instating the missing trade title. It now appears the House will have to reassemble the original farm bill with the trade title included and hold a new vote in both the House and the Senate before again sending it to the White House.

Rep. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., who unlike Boehner has supported the farm bill, told reporters the requirement for a re-vote is not an anti-farm bill position.

"If we're going to pass law, we must pass law that will stand any legal challenge," Blunt said. "You don't want every conservation easement, every food bank distribution, every payment under the farm bill to be subject to any taxpayer going to court and saying 'this bill never passed Congress.' If you're going to have a farm bill, you have to have a farm bill that is unassailable in court."

The House passed the re-done version Thursday afternoon, which is now known as H.R. 6124.

Meanwhile the bill that was overridden by both the House and the Senate was deemed to become law following the Senate's override vote Thursday, according to Alise Kowalski, the press secretary for Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., the ranking member of the House Agriculture Committee.

Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, said the Senate would take up the correction of the missing trade title when Congress returns from the Memorial Day recess on June 2.

The President already has pledged to repeat his veto when the new bill hits his desk, so both chambers will again vote to override. The comfortable vote margins on this week's override ballots leave little doubt the President will again lose the veto. With that the new bill will simply replace the 14-title bill that went into effect on May 22, Kowalski explained.