"You have to keep your word on whether you're going to vote for … you can't govern that way if people don't keep their word on what they're going to do," Ryan said.
"I think the Republicans actually produced the votes they said they were going to."
Democratic leaders, including Rep. Collin Peterson (Minn.), the top Democrat on the Agriculture Committee, said Republican amendments added to the bill during the floor debate cost it votes. The amendments changed dairy provisions in the bill and imposed new requirements on food stamp recipients. They also noted that the 16 Democratic votes would not have been enough to swing the final margin.
“From day one I cautioned my colleagues that to pass a farm bill we would have to work together. Instead, the House adopted a partisan amendment process, playing political games with extreme policies that have no chance of becoming law,” Peterson said in a statement.
The $500 billion bill would have cut about $20 billion over the next five years for food stamps, slashing aid to some 2 million Americans.
Ryan said that program "desperately needs reforming," as did the social safety net as a whole. The Wisconsin lawmaker said there were "better ideas that we can use to approach and attack the root causes of poverty."
"Look, I'm a conservative who believes that our constitutional principles, founding principles, are the key principles for the day, and they're the best if applied to our problems to solve problems," Ryan said. "And we need to have that kind of temperament. This is why I'm focused on poverty these days; this is why I'm focused on — we've got the 50th anniversary of the war on poverty coming up next year. We don't have much to show for it."