House forced to revote farm bill

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Hours after voting to approve just the second veto override of President Bush’s tenure on the massive farm bill, a colossal blunder means the House will have to have a do-over and repass the entire bill anew.

A clerical error meant the version of the bill that Mr. Bush vetoed yesterday differed from the version passed last week by Congress, and House Democrats said they will have to go through the whole vote process again.

The flub turned a Democratic political victory into a major — albeit likely temporary — embarrassment, and gave Republican opponents more time to rally opposition and an excuse to crow about majority party incompetence.

The vote was 316-108, with 100 Republicans joining 216 Democrats to override the presidential veto, while 14 Democrats and 94 Republicans voted to uphold it. The Senate had passed the original bill by a veto-proof 81-15 margin.

Those margins left conservative leaders to ponder what happened to the fiscal conservative message that used to be the backbone of Republican election victories.

“The fact that the numbers are that bad demonstrates to me how seriously the Republican Party is lacking vision in the House,” said former House Majority Leader Dick Armey, an architect of the 1994 Republican revolution who accused his party of buying into pork-barrel parochial politics. “It’s probably a microscopic picture of how badly Republicans have lost their way.”

But such angst was forgotten last night as Democrats scrambled to rework their calendar, vowing to pass the entire bill, again, through both chambers of Congress. That version then would be sent to Mr. Bush for another expected veto and another override attempt. Congress also will have to extend the current farm law, which expires tomorrow.

“We will have to repass the whole thing, as will the Senate,” said Rep. Louise M. Slaughter, New York Democrat. “We can’t let the farm bill just die.”

In the moments after the override passed early in the evening, House Minority Leader John A. Boehner, pointed out that the bill that Mr. Bush vetoed lacked one of the 12 sections of the bill that Congress passed.

“I have doubts about the constitutionality of what we’re doing,” the Ohio Republican said.

The White House told Congress that the printing glitch was another reason to ditch the bill and start again.

“We haven’t found a precedent for a congressional blunder of this magnitude,” said spokesman Scott Stanzel, adding that Congress should use the delay to write a bill Mr. Bush can sign.

Republican leadership aides said the gaffe also means that Democrats won’t be able pass a budget until after they return in June from Memorial Day break.

The blunder sapped the joy from Democrats, who just hours earlier had been touting the bipartisan vote against Mr. Bush.

“Today the House overwhelmingly rejected the president’s misguided veto of the farm bill,” said Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer, Maryland Democrat.

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