The House overwhelmingly rejected President Bush's veto of a $290 billion farm bill Wednesday, but what was to have been a stinging defeat for the president became an embarrassing episode for Democrats.
Only hours before the House's 316-108 vote, Bush had vetoed the five-year measure, saying it was too expensive and gave too much money to wealthy farmers when farm incomes are high. The Senate then was expected to follow suit quickly.
Action stalled, however, after the discovery that Congress had omitted a 34-page section of the bill when lawmakers sent the massive measure to the White House. That means Bush vetoed a different bill from the one Congress passed, leaving leaders scrambling to figure out whether it could become law.
Democrats hoped to pass the entire bill, again, on Thursday under expedited rules usually reserved for unopposed legislation. Lawmakers also probably will have to pass an extension of current farm law, which expires Friday.
"We will have to repass the whole thing, as will the Senate," said Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y. "We can't let the farm bill just die."
Republican leaders called for a farm bill do-over. The White House, almost gleefully, seized on the fumble and said the mixup could give Congress time to fix the "bloated" bill.
It's a setback, to be certain, but what is needed now is a little bit of legislative statecraft and sleight of hand to GET the farm bill BACK on track and get it passed. Was the bill sabotaged? Who knows? But the President simply doesn't matter anymore. That's why so many Republicans are voting for the Farm Bill this year.