Farm Bill Advances in House

House Republicans took the first steps late Thursday toward a formal Farm Bill conference with the Senate, as the Rules Committee cleared the way the way for a floor vote Friday that would marry up the separate titles approved in July and then last week.
September 27, 2013
 

House Republicans took the first steps late Thursday toward a formal Farm Bill conference with the Senate, as the Rules Committee cleared the way the way for a floor vote Friday that would marry up the separate titles approved in July and then last week.

The provisions are part of a larger “martial law” rule approved 9-3 by the Rules panel and empowering the GOP leadership to move quickly over the weekend on debt and funding bills prior to the fiscal year ending Monday night.

In this context, the farm language can seem a bit player in the furor over a threatened government shutdown and potential default. But it is a critical first step that Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) has been waiting for anxiously.

The goal is to restore a more comprehensive package including commodity, conservation, crop insurance and nutrition titles as one. This will then be sent to the Senate as a single amendment and sets the stage for the leadership to appoint conferees.

The action makes good on promises by Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to move quickly once Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) had passed his food stamp cuts and new nutrition title last week. “The sooner the better,” Boehner said then. “As soon as we can.”

But it has taken a torturously long time to reach this stage. And over the summer, ASAP promises from the GOP leadership often translated to “poor saps” for farm state lawmakers impatient to get on with the process.

Even now Boehner has chosen such a convoluted approach that some fear it will take several weeks more before a farm bill conference can be up and running.

There’s no chance of beginning before the current farm law — a one-year extension of the five-year program that already expired in 2012 — runs out Monday. And while the Senate has already appointed its conferees, it must repeat that process now — exposing Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) to more delays.

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