President Obama conferred with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi February 17, 2011, as Vice President Biden spoke with Rep. James Clyburn (SC 6). Clyburn was one of nine Democrats from heavily rural districts who voted for the debt ceiling bill Monday night.

[imgcontainer] [img:jamesclyburn530.jpg] [source]Pete Souza/The White House[/source] President Obama conferred with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi February 17, 2011, as Vice President Biden spoke with Rep. James Clyburn (SC-6). Clyburn was one of nine Democrats from heavily rural districts who voted for the debt-ceiling bill Monday night. [/imgcontainer]

Congressional representatives from the most rural districts, Democrats in particular, voted more favorably for the controversial debt-ceiling bill than did the U.S. Congress as a whole.

In the House vote that passed the bill Monday night, 63% of U.S. Representatives, 174 Republican and half the Democrats (95) supported the measure. Among the 50 most rural U.S. Representatives, 72% voted for the bill. (See a complete chart of their votes below.)

Rural Republicans, 15 of them freshmen in Congress, supported Speaker John Boehner’s bill with the same amount of gusto as did GOP members nationally (73% voted yes).

But the most rural Democrats were far more supportive of the bill than were Democrats nationally.  House Democrats split evenly for and against the bill (95/95). But of the 13 Democrats representing the most rural districts, only 4 opposed the legislation. Rural Democrats through all of the Deep South voted for the bill, as did rural Democrats across the Upper Midwest.

Rural Democrats voting against the bill to cut spending dramatically over the next ten years and raise the debt ceiling were Peter Welch of Vermont, Chellie Pingree from southern Maine, and two North Carolina Democrats, Mike McIntyre and G.K. Butterfield.

Pingree split with her fellow Mainer Michael Michaud, who represents the northern part of the state.

“I just felt that in the long run that this would be very bad for our economy… and take away the fabric of the safety net, the things that help our most vulnerable citizens.” Pingree told Maine Today.

[imgcontainer right] [img:mainerep530.jpg] [source]Chellie Pingree[/source] Shown here campaigning at the Rosemont Market in Yarmouth, Maine, last fall, Rep. Chellie Pingree (ME-1) was one of four rural Democrats who opposed Rep. Boehner’s bill saying it removed “the safety net” from America’s most vulnerable citizens. [/imgcontainer]

She and Michaud had both refrained from taking public stands on the measure until the actual vote Monday night.

“While this bill isn’t perfect, it’s a bipartisan compromise that will avoid default, which would have severely impacted the lives of every American,” said Michaud. “Our seniors will now receive their Social Security checks. Our service members will get paid and avoid putting their families through unneeded financial hardship. Veterans’ benefits will not be threatened.”

Of the most rural Representatives, eight are members of the Tea Party Caucus, according to Fox News. They split evenly on the bill: Hartzler (MO-4), Mulvaney (SC-5), King (IA-5), and Broun (SC-10) voted against the bill. Tea Party members Aderholt (AL4), Luetkemeyer (MO-9), Smith (NE-3) and Fincher (TN-8) voted for it.

[imgcontainer] [img:fincher530.jpg] [source]Chris Kleponis/American Forests Foundation[/source] Rep. Stephen Fincher (TN-8), a Republican and member of the Tea Party Caucus, supported the bill to raise the debt-ceiling. In March, Rep. Fincher took to the bandstand at a gathering hosted by the American Forests Foundation in Washington, D.C. [/imgcontainer]

Tennessee’s two most rural representatives, both Republicans, also split on Monday’s vote. Scott DesJarlais opposed the measure and Stephen Fincher, a farmer, voted for it. Much has been made of Fincher’s income from agricultural subsidies:  “$3.3 million, mostly in cotton subsidies” over the past 12 years, according to the Elizabeth Bewley’s report for Ganett.

However, the specifics of spending cuts and their impact on U.S. agriculture were not included in the debt-ceiling bill.

The Cattle Network observed, “If the objective of a farm lobbyist was to keep agriculture out of the agreement, they earned their fee.  The agreement does not include the words, agriculture, farm, farm policy, biofuel, ethanol, direct payment, or any of the language that you would expect…. the agreement is devoid of references to agriculture.”

The Cattle Network added that in two weeks, when Congress appoints its committee to cut the federal budget, all that will change. “The farm lobbyists had their chance to get some rest this past weekend because they will be working overtime through the rest of the year to push and pull and minimize the impact on agriculture.”

Ag lobbyists aren’t the only ones who are girding up.

[imgcontainer] [img:debtceiling.gif] [source]Daily Yonder[/source] Representatives of the 50 most rural Congressional districts voted 36-14 in favor of the debt ceiling bill, a higher percentage of yes votes than in the U.S. House of Representatives as a whole. [/imgcontainer]

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