Peterson Tries to Get House GOP Leaders to Agree to Accelerate House Farm Bill Without Floor Debate

July 26, 2012 09:31 AM

via a special arrangement with Informa Economics, Inc.

Odds are low that Republican leaders will go ahead with Democratic strategy

NOTE: This column is copyrighted material, therefore reproduction or retransmission is prohibited under U.S. copyright laws.

While some media report that House GOP leaders have boxed themselves and their party into a box relative to a new farm bill, veteran congressional watchers say that opinion is a one-sided and political spin than anything else.

Enter ever-active Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), who told Politico today that he would support a Republican-backed one-year extension of the current farm law if it could be used as a vehicle to negotiate a larger comprehensive deal with the Senate.

But it is the Democratic-constructed procedure that would very likely not meet House GOP leadership approval because, as Politico explained, "the House could pass a one-year extension together with drought relief for livestock producers — giving Republicans some protection for their members before going home for the August recess. The Senate would substitute its five-year farm bill, adopted in June, and ask for a conference. Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) would then have to decide if he would appoint House conferees who would work from the bill reported from the Ag committee earlier this month."

What is unstated in the Politico item, which quotes no Republican, is that the latest farm bill approaches $1 trillion in spending over ten years, and should the measure move directly to conference with the already passed Senate measure, House members would not have a legitimate chance to offer amendments, as a conference report is voted up or down.

But late today, National Journal reported that Peterson said he received a call from Senate Ag Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), asking him to pass an extension and saying that she would then call for a conference. Peterson said that after talking to the House parliamentarian, he learned that he would not need House leaders to agree to a conference — that Stabenow’s request would force the issue. "If the House intends to send us a bill that will be used to negotiate the farm bill during August, I am open to that approach," Stabenow stated. "However, a short-term extension is bad for farmers and our agricultural economy. If Congress does what Congress always does and kicks the can down the road with a short-term extension, there will be no reform, direct payments will continue, we'll lose the opportunity for major deficit reduction and we'll deliver a real blow to our economic recovery."

Peterson and other Democratic members, including Democratic senators, have used several opportunities in the past to tweak their Republican colleagues on the farm bill, in an effort to goad them to bring up the measure for a House floor debate. But by even Peterson's account, the bill that passed the House Ag Committee would not likely garner the 218 votes needed for passage. That is a pretty good reason why Boehner is hesitant to bring up a bill that most think would not clear the chamber.

If the Democratic strategy of going directly to conference fails, House GOP leaders could still bring up what they apparently prefer: a one-year extension of the farm bill along with a livestock disaster aid package. Should that fail, then a solo disaster aid bill would be the next likely approach. But as previously noted, Democratic senators think they have a way to get the House farm bill to conference without a single floor vote.

Meanwhile, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) announced this afternoon that the House may vote on a disaster-aid package before breaking for the August recess next week. He did not provide details. The House "may consider disaster aid under the expiring farm bill," Cantor said.


NOTE: This column is copyrighted material, therefore reproduction or retransmission is prohibited under U.S. copyright laws.






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