Monday, December 16, 2013

House Democrats say they won't support Farm Bill unless unemployment benefits are extended

Farm Bill negotiators talked optimistically on Friday about getting a bill through Congress next month, despite a mountain of hurdles, but then House Democrats signaled that they will refuse to support the bill — which will almost certainly need Dem support to pass the House — unless Republicans agree to restart unemployment benefits with the Farm Bill’s savings," Greg Sargent reports for The Washington Post. Unemployment benefits for 1.3 million Americans will expire Dec. 28.

Chris Van Hollen
Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) told Sargent, “Under no circumstances should we support the Farm Bill unless Republicans agree to use the savings from it to extend unemployment insurance. This is a potential pressure point. We’re going to have to resolve differences in the Farm Bill because otherwise milk prices will spike. If past is prologue, they are going to need a good chunk of Democrats to pass the Farm Bill. I’m confident that the House Democratic leadership will look for every opportunity to extend unemployment insurance, helping struggling families and the economy. The farm bill re-authorization may be the first such opportunity.”

Van Hollen "said that a 'minimum of $15 billion in savings' was expected from the Farm Bill, much of it 'from the elimination of direct subsidies,' and said it would be unconscionable not to use this money for some form of an extension of unemployment benefits [rather than deficit reduction], which would not only help 1.3 million people, but the economy, too," Sargent writes. Van Hollen told Sargent, “The priority should be to help those struggling families not only because it helps them but because it also helps local economies throughout the country." (Read more)

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