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Problems with Congress override of farm bill

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Congress enacted a $300 billion farm bill Thursday over President Bush's objections, but questions remain about whether a clerical error will keep the bill from going into effect.

Congress voted to override President Bush's veto of a $300 billion farm bill.

The Senate voted 82-13 to override the president's veto of the bill Thursday, a day after the House voted 316-108 to override the veto.

Both override votes exceeded the two-thirds majority required by the Constitution.

A portion of the bill, however, remains in legal limbo.

Before the House override vote Wednesday night, lawmakers discovered that the version sent to the White House last week was missing a part. The discovery raises questions about whether that section of the bill, which dealt with authorized trade and food aid, would become law.

The discovery of the missing section, "Title III," prompted concerns from House Republicans that the override vote was improper.

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Democrats said the matter stemmed from a clerical error. But Republicans pounced on the "fiasco," which they said would require a temporary extension of the current farm bill.

"What's happened here raises serious constitutional questions -- very serious," said Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio. "I don't see how we can proceed with the override as it occurred."

However, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday that the override votes in both chambers of Congress would allow the sections of the bill that were sent to the president to become law.

"So, the farm bill minus Title III would be enacted" after the override votes, Pelosi said. "But I'm optimistic that we will be able to get Title III as well, either on its own or by sending the full bill again."

"Obviously, we want the complete bill. But ... we have obviously consulted with those who are expert on the Constitution and congressional action and presidential signatures, vetoes and overrides."

In order to start the process of Title III to become law, the House passed the entire farm bill again Thursday by a vote of 306-110.

It is unclear what the Senate will do. It could pass the entire bill again, as the House did, or it could pass the portion not sent to the president as a free-standing bill.

Two-thirds of the $300 billion in spending for the farm bill would go for nutrition programs such as food stamps. Another $40 billion would go toward farm subsidies, and $30 billion is allocated for payments to farms to keep land idle and other environmental programs.

After vetoing the farm bill, Bush said it "continues subsidies for the wealthy and increases farm-bill spending by more than $20 billion, while using budget gimmicks to hide much of the increase."

The president said it would hurt efforts to improve American farmers' access to overseas markets.

Congress has passed one bill over Bush's objections: a $23 billion water-project legislation that the president vetoed in 2007.

CNN's Deirdre Walsh and Ted Barrett contributed to this report.

All About Agriculture PolicyGeorge W. BushU.S. Congress

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