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Conservatives comment on farm bill future, immigration reform and gay marriage

Four House conservatives who voted against the farm bill said today that if the House Republican leadership wants the farm bill to pass it should negotiate more with them than with the Democrats, that they will also take a tough line on immigration reform, and that they disliked today’s Supreme Court decision on gay marriage.

Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho

Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho
Speaking at a noon event called “Conversations with Conservatives,” that was moderated by the Heritage Foundation, Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, said that the failure of the farm bill had been “very instructive for the Republicans in general.”

The leadership, he said, negotiated with the Democrats who have proven that, “when you have an agreement at the last minute they are willing to move the goal post. It happens on every major issue.”

The Republican leaders, he said, “ignore the conservatives because they think they have a bipartisan agreement.” Then, he added, Democrats try to blame the conservatives for the failure of the legislation.

Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Kan.

Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Kan.
Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Kan., who represents a large district in the western part of the state, said he is more concerned about food stamps, officially known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP, than farm programs.

“We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to target food stamps to the truly needy and take welfare reform from 1996 and apply it to that program,” he said.

Huelskamp, who was removed from the House Agriculture Committee last year by the leadership because he had so many disagreements with the leaders, said no leader had spoken to him about the farm bill since its failure last Thursday. “Hopefully the leadership will deal with us,” he added.

Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Calif.

Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Calif.
Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Calif., said that he wants a farm bill that “will take food stamps back to its original mission, which was to provide basic commodities to the truly needed, and get rid of corporate welfare.”

McClintock said he believes some farm bill programs “inflate prices those same families have to pay at the grocery store.”

Rep. Matt Salmon, R-Ariz., said “For guys like me, it was not just about SNAP.”

“I am a retread, coming back for the second time,” Salmon noted, a reference to coming back after being out of the House. “I do not support corporate welfare.”
Salmon said he has never voted for a farm bill, saying that government programs “should be for those that truly are disadvantaged.”

On immigration reform, Labrador said he would not tell senators “how to do their job,” but he added, “My biggest frustration with the Republican party is that we are running around thinking we have to do this for political [reasons]. The biggest mistake we can make as conservatives is to pander to the Hispanic community.”

Democrats, he said, “are always willing to give goodies to a specific group.”

The American people “want a secure border,” Labrador said, and after the border is secure would be willing to take some action “to do something” about the 11 million undocumented people in the country.

Rep. Matt Salmon, R-Ariz.

Rep. Matt Salmon, R-Ariz.
Salmon said he agreed with Labrador that Republicans can appeal to Hispanic voters without passing the Senate bill. That bill developed by the Gang of Eight senators “has holes the size of the Grand Canyon,” he said.

Salmon said that a group of Hispanics, including some student “dreamers” who have been allowed to stay in the country, recently showed up at a town hall event. Salmon said he expected them to be against him when he said he would not vote “for a pathway to citizenship for people who have broken the law,” but when he said he would vote “for a way for people to work,” he said they “cheered wildly.”

Salmon also said that he wants the Republican conference to codify the Hastert rule under which the leadership could not bring a bill to the floor unless a majority of Republicans support it. Salmon declined to say how many other Republicans agree with him, but that he has “several” cosponsors.

On the Supreme Court ruling today that the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional, Huelskamp said he hopes his Republican colleagues will introduce a constitutional amendment defining marriage. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., both said today they expect the battle over the definition of marriage to continue in the states.