January 27, 2020

Farm Bill; Appropriations; and, Immigration

Categories: Farm Bill /Immigration

Farm Bill: House Floor Discussion Begins as Uncertainty About Final Passage Lingers-  Rules Committee: 103 Amendments Made in Order, Final Vote Could “Spill” Into Next Week 

Lawmakers began discussing the Farm Bill on the House floor yesterday afternoon while the Rules Committee simultaneously sought to determine which of the over 225 amendments to the measure would be considered for votes.

Late last night, the Rules Committee reconvened to report the rule for H.R. 1947.

According to a Rules Committee “wrap-up” that was released today, a total of 103 amendments were made in order.

The Rules Committee list of amendments and the update status of those amendments has been posted at this Rules Committee webpage.

And the House floor schedule for today indicated that, “On Wednesday, the House will meet at 10:00 a.m. for morning hour and 12:00 p.m. for legislative business. First votes expected: 1:30 – 2:30 p.m. Last votes expected: 5:30 – 7:00 p.m.”

The update added that, “The Rule provides for no further general debate, makes in order the following amendments
and allows for the Chairman to offer amendments en bloc:

A full list of the 103 amendments made in order can be found HERE.”

Meanwhile, members from rural districts were “scrambling” to secure the necessary 218 votes necessary to pass the legislation.

David Rogers reported yesterday at Politico that, “House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said Tuesday that she is ‘not likely’ to support the new Farm Bill and warned Republicans that the burden is on them to come up with the votes after insisting on major cuts from food stamps.”

“A veteran of past farm bill fights, Pelosi is not unsympathetic with this goal and she remains close to Rep. Collin Peterson (D- Minn.), the Democratic floor manager for the bill,” Mr. Rogers noted.

The article indicated that, “‘They will get some Democratic votes if they don’t mess it up with the amendment process,’ she said. ‘But when I was speaker, every time we had a vote and I picked up the paper it said ‘Today’s vote tests the Pelosi leadership.’ I had to come up with the votes. We never said we didn’t win because we didn’t have enough Republican votes.’

“‘They have 218,’ she added of Republicans. ‘They have the bill that they want that is flies in the face of the values of our caucus. They have to come up with 218.’”

Emma Dumain reported yesterday at Roll Call Online that, “House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer is pushing Republicans to give votes to Democrats’ amendments for the GOP’s farm bill if they want his vote and those of many other Democrats.

“The Maryland Democrat continued to raise doubts about whether the bill would have the votes to pass.”

The Roll Call item noted that, “‘There are 227 amendments that are going to be filed,’ Hoyer said, adding that he would ‘reserve judgment’ on the bill until the Rules Committee determines which amendments would be brought up for votes.”

Corey Boles reported yesterday at the Washington Wire Blog (Wall Street Journal) that, “Rep. Steny Hoyer (D., Md.) said he thought some Democrats would vote to advance the legislation out of the House because they support the underlying programs aimed at farmers and are confident the Democratic-controlled Senate will hold firm in opposition to the deep cuts to nutrition programs during later negotiations.”

Pete Kasperowicz reported yesterday at The Hill’s Floor Action Blog that, “Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), the ranking member of the House Agriculture Committee, downplayed cuts to the federal food stamp program in the farm bill by saying every federal program can stand to be trimmed.

“‘While I think it’s ridiculous to cut hundreds of billions of dollars out of nutrition programs as some members have called for, I also don’t think it’s realistic to say that we can’t cut one penny from these programs,’ Peterson said at the start of House debate on the bill. ‘Because clearly, there isn’t a government program that couldn’t stand some reductions.’”

Ranking Member Peterson also noted on the floor that, “The bill makes major reforms to farm programs. Repealing direct payments saves taxpayers nearly $40 billion dollars and will ensure that farmers won’t get a government subsidy for doing nothing. Instead, producers are given the choice between two counter-cyclical farm safety net programs, addressing either price declines or revenue losses, which only support farmers during difficult times. The bill also sets new income requirements so individual millionaires won’t receive farm payments and it continues the no cost sugar program.”

Chairman Frank Lucas (R., Okla.) noted on the House floor yesterday that, “In addition to eliminating direct payments, we also repeal the ACRE program, the disaster program for crops, and the counter-cyclical program.  My philosophy from the beginning of the farm bill process has been that these programs had to be based on market economics and they had to work for all crops in all regions of the country.  Our bill achieves this while also saving $23 billion, which is a record 36 percent spending reduction.”

Chairman Lucas added that, “The FARRM Act also reforms SNAP for the first time in decades.  We do this by ensuring that states, which administer the program, cannot circumvent the law and endanger the integrity of the program.  We end the broad-based categorical eligibility loophole that states use to waive the asset and income tests set by Congress.  We end the ‘Heat and Eat’ loophole, so states can’t send token $1 checks to increase participants’ benefits.  We end state bonuses for responsibly administering SNAP – a practice they should be doing anyway.”

Meanwhile, Emma Dumain reported last night at Roll Call Online that, “Democratic and Republican aides signaled Tuesday evening that final passage of the farm bill could be delayed until next week, as the House Rules Committee sifts through more than 200 amendments and leadership on both sides of the aisle wonder whether there are even enough votes to pass it.

“‘Sounds like [Republicans] are having trouble rounding up votes and need more time to try to get them,’ one Democratic leadership aide said.

“A Republican leadership aide, meanwhile, attributed the holdup to the sheer volume of amendments.”

David Rogers, writing last night at Politico, reported that, “Republicans signaled late Tuesday that the House farm bill debate is likely to spill into next week as the leadership copes with scores of amendment requests and unrelated changes in the floor schedule.

“The sudden shift upset top members of the House Agriculture Committee, fearful of leaving the giant bill exposed over the weekend. But Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) told POLITICO he was confident still of winning passage.”

Mr. Rogers explained that, “General farm bill debate opened Tuesday afternoon, and Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) had envisioned beginning amendments as early as 10 a.m. Wednesday and working well into the night. He knew he faced a 3 p.m. deadline Thursday, the time at which House members had been promised they can leave for the weekend. But Lucas and his ranking Democrat, Minnesota Rep. Collin Peterson, felt the task was doable.

“Matched against this schedule was the fact that close to 220 amendments had been filed with the House Rules Committee. And late Tuesday, Lucas was told that because of other scheduling considerations, the farm bill will not be back up until about 2:30 Wednesday afternoon.”

In addition, Jerry Hagstrom reported last night at National Journal Online that, “The House may not be able to finish work on the farm bill by Thursday as leaders of the Agriculture Committee had hoped before debate on the massive measure began Tuesday, largely because of a pileup of amendments that could require as many as 50 roll-call votes in two days.

“House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., and ranking member Collin Peterson, D-Minn., had said Monday they were determined to finish the bill by 3 p.m. Thursday, the time that House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., has set for the final votes of the week. But a knowledgeable Democratic aide said Tuesday that the plan looked increasingly unrealistic.

It was also unclear as the debate started whether the votes exist to pass the bill at any time.”

Mr. Hagstrom noted that, “The real question is whether congressional leaders have the votes to pass the bill. ‘It is not clear to anyone if there is a path to 218 or how to get there,’ the Democratic aide said.

“The big problem, the aide noted, is that the amendments—ranging from reversing or increasing a proposed Republican cut in the food-stamp program to putting restrictions on crop insurance—seem more likely to discourage votes for final passage than improve them. In the past, members have used amendments to get things for their districts that constituents wanted, but this year the tea-party Republicans who want to cut government appear to be dominating the process.”

The National Journal item pointed out that, “Some 42 members of the House asked to appear before the committee, which met for hours Tuesday to listen to them.”

More specifically on the Rules Committee meeting yesterday, Chris Clayton reported yesterday at the DTN Ag Policy Blog that, “Leading off, Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., championed his amendment with ten other congressmen to eliminate the dairy supply provisions in the committee bill and replace it with a margin insurance program [ruled in order].

“Goodlatte’s amendment failed in the committee, but the dairy reform measures in the bill are among some of the most divisive changes in the farmer safety net. Goodlatte noted the market stabilization program would attempt to manage the U.S. milk supply, leading to higher prices for consumers. Goodlatte and others would rather provide a margin insurance program for farmers ranging from $4 to $8 per cwt.”

The Wall Street Journal editorial board opined on the dairy issue in today’s paper, “Price Fixing Milk.”

During the Rules Committee debate yesterday, Rep. Bob Gibbs (R., Ohio) discussed his amendment that is cosponsored with Rep. Ron Kind (D., Wis.) regarding target prices (ruled in order).

“I believe back in the 1995 farm bill a direction was changed where we were seeing the farmers that were going to move market oriented bills, where the farmers would get their directions for making planning decisions and management decisions based on what the market was telling them.  Prior to that they were more making decisions based on what the farm program was,” Rep. Gibbs said.

And my concern is where the target prices are set in the chairman’s mark is moving back to that, because too many of the major program crops are set near or above the cost of production, and that’s market distortion.”

He added that, “And being a farmer myself, we should be aware of the fact that there’s a lot of volatility in commodity prices.  For example, if we have a record corn crop this year and another one next year, I can almost, you know, I would speculate that we will be down below the target price level set in the chairman’s mark, and the taxpayers will be paying for it.”

A news release yesterday from the National Farmers Union (NFU) indicated that, “NFU argues that modifying PLC [Price Loss Coverage] to establish a reference price based on a five-year Olympic average price, as some have suggested, would weaken the safety net as multiple years of lower prices would decrease the support prices to very low levels.”

Rep. Peter Welch, speaking yesterday at the Rules Committee about an amendment regarding the Renewable Fuel Standard, noted that, “Dairy farmers, one of the biggest costs they have is the cost of grain.  And there’s been this explosion in price, significantly as a result of the ethanol mandate that is diverting so much of corn production into ethanol production.”

The Vermont Democrat added that, “So I think it’s time for Congress to step back and ask the question as to whether or not this well intentioned ethanol mandate actually makes sense, does it work.  My conclusion is it doesn’t.”  (This amendment was not made in order).

And Rep. Charlie Rangel (D., N.Y.) discussed his amendment on trade with Cuba at the Rules Committee; saying in part, “Basically, this removes any restrictions on the ability of Cuba to buy U.S. products, especially agricultural products, by removing the cash only provision.  As you know, we’ve had this embargo for over 50 years.  The main objective of the embargo was to get rid of President Fidel and/or his brother, and they’re still there, and we’ve had 11 presidents since that time.” (This amendment was not made in order).

And with respect to the SNAP program, Rep. Tom Marino (R., Pa.) discussed an amendment he introduced that would gather data on SNAP purchases (made in order).

“I’ve been working closely with the leader’s office, and the legislative office, and instead of my amendment implementing a national legislation, we’ve agreed to…GAO has agreed to help implement a pilot study in nine states to see how and on what food stamp money is being spent,” he said.

Rep. Marino explained that, “There’s no transparency on this.  We have no evidence, no empirical evidence to show who’s using the SNAP card and what is being done with the SNAP card.  And it’s not new legislation.  It’s not a new mandate.  Title 7 USC 2020 requires stores to keep data on the SNAP sales, and it’s simply not being done.  And what I’m asking is that there be a study to see if we can at least curtail the waste, fraud and abuse and how we go about it.”

And Rep. Mike Conaway (R., Tex.) discussed his amendment [was ruled in order] that, “Requires a 10% reduction in the Thrifty Food Plan calculation in any year that the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program is not authorized.”  An audio clip from his presentation on this amendment can be heard here (MP3- 1:21).

Rep. Conaway explained that, “Whether you like it or not, we have had this marriage between the safety net for production agriculture and nutrition programs that has worked well to get this thing across to the 218 votes that we need.” He added that, “The nutrition program has no skin in the game if we don’t reauthorize [the Farm Bill].  In other words if we run past the September 30 deadline, the SNAP program just keeps churning along with the way it is.”

His amendment “would create a sense of urgency among the nutrition program folks who support that, to help them help us, get the 218 votes we need,” Rep. Conaway said.

Rep. Jeff Denham (R., Calf.), who spoke at length during the Ag Committee markup of the Farm Bill about animal production issues and interstate commerce, yesterday elaborated on an amendment he is co-sponsoring with five other lawmakers, including Kurt Schrader (D., Ore.) that would “create a uniform national standard for housing of egg-laying hens.”

To listen to a brief clip from Reps. Denham and Schrader from yesterday’s Rules Committee hearing, just click here (MP3- 3:31).

Rep. Denham pointed out: “This is an industry solution- deals only with egg laying hens and has no impact on other animal agriculture.” (The amendment was not made in order.)

In addition, an amendment submitted by Reps. Ron Kind (D., Wis.), Thomas Petri (R., Wis.) and others, that, “Limits premium subsidies to those producers with an AGI under $250,000 and limits per person premium subsidies to $50,000 and caps crop insurance providers’ reimbursement of administrative and operating at $900 million and reduces their rate of return to 12%. Introduces transparency into the crop insurance program,” was made in order.

A GOP amendment sponsored by Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R., Kans.) and others that, “Creates additional work requirements for SNAP recipients and raises the total reduction in spending to $31 billion,” was also ruled in order.

And an amendment by Rep. Jim McGovern (D., Mass.) and other Democrat members that, “Restores the $20.5 billion cuts in SNAP by offsetting the Farm Risk Management Election Program and the Supplemental Coverage Option,” was ruled in order.

A press comment on the Farm Bill rule from the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) today indicated that, “We are pleased the Rule will allow a vote on the Fortenberry commodity program payment limit reform and Thompson-Fortenberry conservation accountability amendments.  However, we nonetheless are urging a no vote on the Rule for allowing no debate and no vote on the other major reform amendments backed by NSAC — the Hanna crop insurance AGI amendment, the Petri premium subsidy limitation amendment, the Speier insurance subsidy transparency amendment, the Kaptur farmer protection against retaliation amendment, the Kuster organic farmer EQIP payment limit equalization amendment, the Lujan-Grisham minority farmer amendment, and the Pingree local food and rural economic development amendment.  It is a sad day when bipartisan reform amendments with very broad appeal and excellent chances for passage are killed via rule before they can even be debated.  That is not the way to build widespread support for the farm bill.  Quite the contrary.”



A news release yesterday from the Senate Agriculture Subcommittee indicated that, “The U.S. Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies today approved fiscal year 2014 funding legislation that totals $20.93 billion, which is $420 million above the fiscal year 2013 enacted level.

“The bill funds the Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration, and provides critical investments in programs that will directly impact public health and safety, including nutrition programs, housing and water programs, agricultural research, food and drug safety, and international food assistance.”

Subcommittee Ranking Member Roy Blunt (R., Mo.), in part, discussed specific issues associated with agricultural research and food aid at yesterday’s markup- audio clip here (MP3- 1:29).



Sara Murray and Kristina Peterson reported in today’s Wall Street Journal that, “A sweeping effort to rewrite the nation’s immigration laws would shrink federal deficits over the next two decades, the Congressional Budget Office said Tuesday in a report that could help win Republican support for the measure.

“The legislation would save $175 billion over a decade by prompting a labor-force expansion that boosts U.S. income- and payroll-tax collections, said the CBO, the nonpartisan agency that advises Congress on budget and economic matters.”

And Molly K. Hooper reported yesterday at The Hill Online that, “Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Tuesday told GOP lawmakers that he would adhere to the ‘Hastert Rule’ on immigration reform and not hold a vote without the support of a majority of the caucus.

“‘I don’t see any way of bringing an immigration bill to the floor that doesn’t have a majority support of Republicans,’ Boehner told reporters following a closed-door House GOP conference meeting, where he offered a similar message to his members.”

Keith Good

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