House conservatives tanked a GOP farm bill on Friday over an intraparty feud over immigration, delivering a stunning blow to Republican leaders as they try to find a path forward on immigration.
In a 198-213 vote, GOP conservatives essentially joined Democrats in rejecting the measure, which would have introduced tougher work requirements for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) that were a priority for Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.).
The whip count remained in question in the hours leading up to the dramatic vote, despite GOP leaders expressing confidence just minutes beforehand that they would have enough support to pass the bill.
Ryan and other GOP leaders frantically tried to flip members of the House Freedom Caucus from "no" to "yes" during the amendment vote series leading up to final passage.
At one point, Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.), a chief deputy whip, was seen working Rep. Dave Brat (R-Va.) while Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) was locked in an intense conversation with Rep. Jody Hice (R-Ga.).
Ryan, McCarthy and Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) huddled with House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) and Reps. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and Scott Perry (R-Pa.) earlier as lawmakers voted on amendments to the bill.
Leadership made an offer to the Freedom Caucus that they could pick any date they wanted in June for a floor vote on a hard-line immigration bill crafted by Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), according to a source familiar with the discussion.
In the end it, it wasn’t enough. Meadows said his members needed more of a commitment from leadership on the Goodlatte bill.
“It was not fully clear,” Meadows said of the offer from leadership.
Leadership expressed disappointment after the vote, as did President Trump.
"President Donald J. Trump is disappointed in the result of today’s vote in the House of Representatives on the Farm bill, and hopes the House can resolve any remaining issues in order to achieve strong work requirements and support our Nation’s agricultural community," said White House deputy press secretary Lindsay Walters.
The White House vowed to "continue to work with Congress to pass a farm bill on time."
"Look, the farm bill got sidetracked by the immigration debate, just like America is getting sidetracked for the immigration debate," said McHenry, who took a shot at the Republicans who voted against the bill.
"We had enough members that were willing to vote for the farm bill, that liked the farm bill, but a small group that wanted to extract some direct pledge on immigration that we could not simply fulfill under their time frame," he said.
"Which is really a great disappointment that they would vote against a policy that they profess to support in order to get something immediate that was not in our legislative capacity."
A total of 30 Republicans voted against the bill. The GOP dissenters were largely a mix of Freedom Caucus members and moderates.
"This is all the more disappointing because we offered the vote these members were looking for, but they still chose to take the bill down," said Doug Andres, a spokesman for Ryan.
Ryan also voted "no" on the measure for procedural reasons so that leadership could bring it back up again. Congress has until Sept. 30 to pass legislation reauthorizing federal farm and food programs.
After the failed vote, a frustrated Rep. Dennis Ross (R-Fla.) left the chamber warning that now more Republican members would sign a discharge petition intended to force votes on a series of immigration measures, including some likely to be backed by Democrats.
He said GOP leaders had sought to convince members to back the farm bill with this warning.
The discharge petition has badly divided Republicans and reminded the GOP of their stark differences on immigration.
The effort represents a revolt against GOP leaders, who generally control what comes to the floor. The petition would set up a "Queen of the Hill" process in which four immigration measures would be voted upon, with the one getting the most votes above 218 being sent to the Senate.
Democrats have been told to back the discharge petition, and GOP leaders have argued it effectively gives power to the minority party.
"The unfortunate thing is by this show today, it gives more leverage on the discharge petition, which I think is highly destructive," McHenry said following the vote.
The votes could lead to House passage of legislation that would shelter "Dreamers," immigrants who came to the United States illegally as children. Helping these immigrants is important to Democrats and many of those backing the discharge petition, as an Obama-era program sheltering them from deportation is being unwound by Trump.
Republicans made a procedural motion after the vote that would allow Ryan to bring the bill to the floor again, though it seemed unlikely there would be another vote on Friday.