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Local politics

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Farm bill stance costs Stutzman leadership post

U.S. Rep. Marlin Stutzman confirmed Monday that he lost his post with the House Republican leadership team after voting against its rules for amending and debating the first farm bill.

Republican officials removed Stutzman, R-3rd, as an assistant whip, or vote counter, this summer because he opposed their procedures for advancing the five-year agriculture and nutrition bill.

"I did vote against the rule, and I knew it would cost me my position as assistant whip," Stutzman said Monday outside Community Harvest Food Bank of Northeast Indiana, where he spoke at a 30th anniversary celebration.

A whip team surveys a political party's representatives on how they plan to vote on legislation, giving caucus leaders a better idea of whether a bill will pass or fail. Stutzman's removal was first reported by the political newsletter Indiana Legislative Insight.

"One of the requirements is you have to vote for all the rules with leadership if you're on the whip team," Stutzman said.

"But I felt that it was not the right direction. … I just felt it was wrong, and (the farm bill) failed. I think that I proved out that I was right under the circumstances."

In June, the House Rules Committee rejected Stutzman's proposed amendments to separate agriculture programs from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – food stamps for low-income people, which account for about 80 percent of farm bill spending.

The LaGrange County corn and soybean farmer was among only four Republicans in the 233-member caucus who voted the same week against GOP rules for considering the bill.

A day later, Stutzman and 61 other Republicans joined 172 Democrats in defeating the farm bill. Three weeks later, House Republicans narrowly passed legislation to split ag programs and food stamps.

Stutzman said Monday he still is on good terms with House leaders, including Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.

"Kevin pulled me to the side and said, 'Hey, you voted against the rule, you're off the whip team,' and I said, 'I understand,' " Stutzman recalled. "He said, 'I still want to work together,' and I said, 'Same here.' "

McCarthy is scheduled to attend a campaign fundraiser in Indiana for Stutzman in October.

Stutzman said he has asked GOP leaders to assign him to the House-Senate conference committee that will try to reach a compromise this month on the chambers' competing farm bills.

Meantime, the House is expected to take up legislation this week that would cut food-stamp spending, currently $80 billion a year, by $4 billion a year for 10 years.

The Democratic Senate's farm bill would reduce food-stamp spending by $400 million a year for 10 years.