Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says nothing is more important to rural America than passage of the bill, partly because "the government’s capacity to respond to the drought is somewhat limited due to the lack of disaster programs," Julie Harker of Brownfield reports. But it seems that even the worst drought in decades won't get the Farm Bill to the floor for a vote anytime soon, David Rogers reports for Politico.
The bill would cut $35 billion from mandatory spending over 10 years, exactly the kind of cuts Congress promised to make last year, Rogers notes, but that's not enough for Tea Party types. He writes that the Republican leadership would rather delay a vote until a "lame duck" session after the November elections than "disrupt its political messaging."
Delaying the Farm Bill is "new ground for any Congress," Rogers writes. "Never before in modern times has a farm bill reported from the House Agriculture Committee been so blocked." He says there has never been a situation like this in 50 years of farm bills. "There have been long debates, often torturous negotiations with the Senate and a famous meltdown in 1995 when the House Agriculture Committee couldn’t produce a bill" in the wake of the last Republican takeover. "But no House farm bill, once out of committee, has been kept off the floor while its deadline passes."
Rogers writes, "There's some logic to letting voters reshuffle the deck before tackling tough issues," but that's not what's happening in this situation. "The Senate has already approved its farm bill; even if Republicans were to win [Senate] control in November, the GOP’s majority will be so narrow that Democrats will be able to block wholesale changes. In the House, the only certainty about a lame duck is there will be even more unhappy people hanging around," he writes. The real reason for Speaker John Boehner to delay the farm bill is that "He doesn’t like the answers he sees," Rogers says, "not because there will be better answers after the election."
Rogers writes that Boehner would rather "run out the clock with symbolic anti-red tape, anti-tax votes on which the GOP is more united" than "wrestle with this problem" of passing the Farm Bill before Sept. 30, when the current farm law expires and Congress will be panting to go home and campaign. The August recess means there are few days left to legislate before the election. (Read more)