In part, Chairman Lucas indicated that, “Well, Mike, everything now, at this point, that adds to the schedule makes the farm bill process more complicated. I’m not surprised that the majority leader has announced that we will have a vote on repealing Obamacare. I think pretty much the issue is understood in the House and the lines are clearly drawn. The body that passed this when Speaker Pelosi was in charge is a body now under Speaker Boehner that will vote to repeal it…[i]t makes the farm bill process more complicated, but I’m not sure, Mike, you could have made the farm bill process any less complicated the way things have been going lately.”
In commenting on the Senate passed Farm Bill, Chairman Lucas pointed out that, “We will continue the effort at saving. They basically come up with $23 billion in savings, or cuts, however you want to describe it. We’ll have to achieve a bit more than that in the United States House, probably 30 some billion, but we’ll see how the numbers come together in the committee markup. We will have a form of their crop revenue assurance program, the shallow loss stuff. We may kick it in in a slightly different way. But in addition to that, we’ll have to have something that they don’t have, and that is give producers an option at some kind of a reference price proposal giving Southern plains and Southern crops, outside of, perhaps, what many people think of in the corn and bean area, a second choice in policy options to create them a safety net.”
Sarah Gonzalez reported yesterday at Agri-Pulse Online that, “The House Agriculture Appropriations bill is unlikely to hit the floor until after the House Agriculture Committee’s markup of farm bill legislation beginning on July 11, said House Agriculture Chairman Committee Frank Lucas, R-Okla., today.
“‘I’ve made it very clear to leadership that I prefer they not have it at the same time,’ he said. ‘As of this moment, I don’t anticipate having ag appropriations in the House at same time as the farm bill markup in the committee.’
“The agriculture appropriations bill, passed through the House Appropriations Committee two weeks ago and initially expected to be debated on the floor this week, is slated for some time after the chamber completes its consideration of the transportation bill.”
An update posted yesterday at The Oklahoma Farm Report Online reported that, “Work continues on the House version of the 2012 Farm Bill, and Congressman Frank Lucas took some time to speak with Ron Hays about the progress that has been made to date and how the process will continue.
“Lucas says that he has had the opportunity to read the version recently passed in the Senate. He says there are major differences in approach between the Senate and House versions.
“‘They have a bill that is very focused on crop insurance. It is very heavy on the crop revenue side which my economists on the House Agriculture Committee assure me will be good for the folks in corn and bean country in the Midwest. They’ve got a bill that is very frugal in its savings on the nutrition side. They save about $4 billion through reforms. The nutrition programs are about 80 percent of all farm bill spending. They have a bill that imposes a variety of other things, some conservation requirements on crop insurance and things like that.’”
In part, Rep. Peterson indicated that, “But on balance I think they [the Senate] did a pretty good job with the bill, and I give Frank Lucas high marks for what he’s been doing over in the House. He and I are working together, and hopefully we can get the leadership to let us get this thing on track. We’ve got a good bipartisan bill put together in the House. We’re ready to go. It’s just a matter of the leadership giving us floor time.
“We get to the floor, it’s going to be tough. We’re going to have a lot of amendments, and we’re not sure, because we have all these new members, we’re not sure exactly where things are going to come out. But we’re going to be together fighting for what we think is right. You know, I’m optimistic. I think we’re going to get this done, get this thing into conference before the August recess and get it in conference over August, and get it on the floor in September and get it done.”
More specifically on House timing, Rep. Peterson noted that, “We were going to mark up on Wednesday this week, but Mr. Cantor [House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R., Va.)], who is no big fan of these farm bills, requested that we delay until the 11th. I wasn’t happy with that, but it’s their decision how to schedule this, and it’s going to… It makes me a little nervous that we’re pushing up against the timeline, but I still can see a pathway to get this done.
“I think their attitude was, well, the Senate will never get it done, so we don’t have to worry about it. We do have a number of Republicans that don’t like…don’t want to do any farm bill, but it would hurt them significantly if they held, you know, if it’s the leadership of the Republicans in the House holding this up because it’s not going to be us. It’s not going to be the Ag Committee. And if they screw this up, I think they’re going to pay the price in farm country in the election.”
Late last week, Pete Kasperowicz reported at The Hill’s Floor Action Blog that, “The House next week is expected to take up two bills that would continue the GOP’s trend of seeking cuts to 2013 spending levels.
“The Transportation and Housing and Urban Development spending bill, H.R. 5972; [while], “the second spending bill would fund the Department of Agriculture, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and related agencies. This bill, H.R. 5973, spends $19.4 billion, a $365 million cut from current levels.”
The Hill update, which was posted on Friday morning, added that, “GOP leaders have indicated that both of these bills will be up next week — the House has already approved four of the 12 annual spending bills, and approving these two next week would bring the House to the halfway mark before the July 4 break.”
However, David Rogers reported on Friday afternoon at Politico that, “Having delayed a farm bill markup in deference to an agriculture appropriations bill due on the floor next week, the House Republican leadership confirmed Friday that the $19.4 billion appropriations measure isn’t likely to come up either before the July Fourth recess.
“Instead Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) has assigned the first slot to a transportation appropriations bill which will be called up Tuesday night. Given the press of other legislation—and some annual social events for lawmakers—both the leader’s office and the Appropriations Committee signaled that it is unlikely the agriculture measure will make it to the floor before the holiday.
“House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) was described as unfazed. But just days ago, Cantor asked him to delay any action on the farm bill precisely because of the conflict. Why the leader didn’t follow through and schedule the agriculture appropriations first next week is unclear. But it is sure to feed into doubts that he and top GOP leaders really want to move on a farm bill this summer at all.”
Mr. Rogers noted that, “Cantor’s office insists that is not the case and he is not saying ‘no’ to a farm bill this year. But his top advisers admit too that they were taken by surprise this week when the Senate completed its farm bill with bipartisan support…‘[R]egardless of how the schedule progresses next week, we have assurances from leadership that House consideration of the [agriculture appropriations] bill will not interfere with our scheduled farm bill markup on July 11,’ said a spokesperson for the chairman.”
Ron Nixon reported in today’s New York Times that, “The Senate approved a sweeping new farm bill on Thursday that would cost nearly $1 trillion over the next 10 years, financing dozens of price support and crop insurance programs for farmers and food assistance for low-income families.
“The bill passed with overwhelming bipartisan support, 64 to 35. It now goes to the House, where it faces a much tougher road because conservative lawmakers want to make deeper cuts in the food stamp program, which serves about 45 million Americans. ‘This bill represents significant reform,’ said Senator Debbie Stabenow, Democrat of Michigan and chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee. ‘It cuts subsidies, it cuts the deficit and it creates jobs.’
“Senator Pat Roberts, Republican of Kansas and the ranking member on the committee, called the legislation the best bill possible. ‘It shows what can happen if we break the logjam of partisanship and work together to get something done,’ Mr. Roberts said.”
Mr. Nixon indicated that, “In the House, the chairman of the Agriculture Committee, Representative Frank D. Lucas, Republican of Oklahoma, said work on the bill would begin on July 11. He said committee members would work on a spending bill next week. Congress will recess for the July 4 holiday week.
“‘Although there will be differences between the Senate approach and our own, I hope my colleagues are encouraged by this success when we meet on the 11th to consider our own legislation,’ Mr. Lucas said.”
Paul Kane reported in today’s Washington Post that, “To the purported shortlist of certainties in life — death and taxes — add large, bipartisan support in the Senate for the farm bill.
“Despite the pattern in recent years of intense partisan acrimony, backroom bickering and publicly staged fights over nearly every piece of legislation, the Senate has begun to plod through a nearly $1 trillion farm bill that is likely to get a bipartisan vote for its approval by week’s end.”
The Post article noted that, “Republicans, who are in the minority in the Senate, said the chamber can still function if the Democrats in charge allow it to happen. The farm bill is the latest in a string of measures that went through what insiders call ‘regular order’ — a committee drafted a bill over several months, sent it to the larger Senate and, after haggling, Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) agreed to allow a few dozen amendments.”
And, Manu Raju reported earlier this week at Politico that, “No, Reid and [Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.)] aren’t about to solve the nation’s fiscal problems and announce a historic tax and spending agreement. But on a wide range of issues before the Senate, the chamber has been functioning on a surprising level lately.
“The Senate leaders cut a massive deal to move forward with a farm bill — and allow votes on more than 70 amendments, some of which are fairly controversial.”
Erik Wasson reported yesterday morning at The Hill’s On the Money Blog that, “The Senate will take up 73 amendments to the 2013 farm bill, but none will address the objections that rice and peanut farmers have to subsidy cuts in the legislation.
“Sens. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) and Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) last week devised an amendment to restore optional target price-based supports favored by rice and peanut growers that were eliminated by the draft bill.”
Mr. Wasson stated that, “Conrad decided to stop pushing for the amendment after talking with Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.).
“‘After speaking with Sen. Stabenow, Sen. Conrad determined the best strategy would be to withhold the amendment and pursue improvements in conference committee negotiations,’ a Democratic aide said.”
Meredith Shiner reported last night at Roll Call Online that, “Senate negotiators stuck a massive amendment deal on the pending farm bill tonight, working through contentious battles on the floor, in the cloakroom and in Capitol corridors to inch closer to potential passage.
“Although final Senate approval is far from guaranteed, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) announced a 73-amendment agreement just before 8:30 p.m. [related FarmPolicyaudio here (MP3- 5:00)], hours after Senate Agriculture Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and ranking member Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) could be seen and heard wrangling with rank-and-file Members in the chamber.
“The amendment package, which was agreed to by unanimous consent, includes measures both germane and nongermane to the bill. But it wasn’t secured easily.”
The Need-To-Know Memo (Email update from National Journal) stated Friday that, “The farm bill isn’t dead, but it’s fading fast after senators left town without agreement on how to deal with hundreds of proposed amendments. Senate Democratic aides now predict defeat under this scenario: Without an amendment deal, which isn’t expected, [Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.)] will file cloture on the bill next week, possibly on Tuesday. Backers probably ‘don’t have the votes’ to overcome the cloture hurdle, a Democratic leadership aide said. Though the vote might split both parties, most opposition would come from Republicans, many of whom will cite Reid’s blocking of amendments to oppose the bill on procedural grounds.”
“The Republican response to that Friday announcement has a good chance of playing out particularly loudly in the Senate. The upper chamber is planning more behind-the-scenes work on a farm bill, so Republicans will have plenty of time to fill the empty stage of the Senate floor with complaints about the immigration decision.”
The Hill update noted that, “The immigration decision undoubtedly makes tougher what was already tough, like the farm bill, which was already starting to get attacked by Republicans as a $400 billion increase in spending. Or cooperation on moving judicial nominations — Senate Republicans had already decided not to move any more circuit court nominees until the November elections.”
Pete Kasperowicz reported yesterday morning at The Hill’s Floor Action Blog that, “Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Thursday morning that there is still no agreement on which amendments to the farm bill to consider, but said the Senate will eventually find a way to whittle down the more than 200 amendments offered so far.
“‘We can’t do all 250 amendments that are out there, but we can do a lot of them,’ Reid said on the Senate floor.
“‘It’s really disappointing we don’t already have something, but hope is still here, and I hope we can get that done,’ he added. ‘A few senators are holding this up, and that’s too bad.’”
Erik Wasson reported yesterday at The Hill’s On the Money Blog that, “Facing one of the toughest challenges of her career, Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) on Wednesday expressed optimism that she will be able to save the 2012 farm bill from defeat on the Senate floor.
“‘I am very confident that we will continue to move forward and get this done,’ she said. ‘Failure to act would be a real blow to the economy.’
“Stabenow, who is running for reelection, said she and committee ranking member Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) have made significant progress in whittling down the 247 amendments filed to the farm bill so that the most important can be debated.”
(Note that an unofficial FarmPolicy.com transcript of a press briefing Chairwoman Stabenow held with reporters yesterday morning is available here).
Meredith Shiner reported last night at Roll Call Online that, “While there might be some glimmer of hope for approval of a bipartisan farm bill, it was hard to see the light today as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) filled the amendment tree on the sweeping legislation and moved on to another issue.
“The managers of the bill, Agriculture Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and ranking member Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), came to the floor after Reid announced he would be proceeding to flood insurance legislation. They reiterated their dedication to completing the bill and weeding through the many amendments that others are hoping to attach to it.”
(Note that remarks yesterday evening by Chairwoman Stabenow on the Farm Bill process moving forward, including remarks on amendments, can be heard here, (MP3- 4:55)).
The Need-To-Know Memo (Email update from National Journal) stated yesterday that, “Backers hope early this week to nail down a deal on amendments that will allow passage of a farm bill by Friday. Lack of an agreement could endanger the bill and it is unclear if the Senate Agriculture Committee’s ranking member, Pat Roberts, R-Kans., can convince his GOP conference members to accept a limited number of non-germane amendments that Democrats will accept. Opposition from southern Republicans is also a hurdle.”
Pete Kasperowicz reported yesterday at The Hill’s Floor Action Blog that, “Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Monday that Republicans are once again forcing the Senate to move at a snail’s pace to pass legislation that creates jobs, which he said shows their ongoing effort to hurt President Obama.
“‘It’s a shame that we have now wasted 30 hours post-cloture on this bill,’ Reid said on the Senate floor. ‘It’s a bill that passed by 90 senators agreeing we should move for debate on this bill.’
“‘Republicans have made a decision that they would rather do anything they can to stop jobs from being created, hoping it will help them with the elections come November,’ Reid charged. ‘Too often in this Congress, the Republican strategy has been to kill job-creating bills in the hopes of harming the economy and hurting President Obama.’”
(A portion of Senator Reid’s comments from yesterday can be heard here- FarmPolicy audio (MP3- 2:13)).
Yesterday’s update added that, “Reid said he is continuing to work with senators on a deal outlining which amendments to the farm bill could come up for a vote.”
Pete Kasperowicz reported on Friday at The Hill’s Floor Action Blog that, “The growing scandal about alleged security leaks from the Obama administration may well dominate next week, as Senate Republicans have vowed to push for a resolution seeking a special counsel to investigate.”
The update added that, “Before the leaks scandal, the Senate was preparing for what otherwise might have been a relatively calm week with the House not in session, giving senators time to make progress toward completing the farm bill. But even here, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) will likely need to find a way around the seemingly endless requests for amendments.
“Reid has often spent more than a week or more just to arrange deals on amendments for much smaller bills. But the farm bill is a giant, five-year, 1,000-page instruction manual for U.S. farm policy — and on top of that, includes controversial language on crop insurance reform and other issues — making Reid’s task much more difficult.”
The Associated Press reported yesterday that, “A five-year farm and food bill that would revamp the federal safety net for farmers and eliminate direct government payments for idle crop fields took its first step toward passage Thursday in the Senate.
“A 90-8 vote to officially begin debate opens the way for what could be several weeks of attempts to amend proposed legislation that spends some $100 billion a year on crop insurance, conservation and nutrition programs.”
The AP article added that, “The House Agriculture Committee is expected to write a farm bill more sympathetic to southern growers, who want to keep aspects of the existing system where farmers are paid when prices dip below certain target levels. House Republicans also say that more savings can be squeezed out of the food stamp program.”