Democrats Mull Farm Bill Budget Cuts as Possible Offset for End-of-Year Spending

December 14, 2011 11:53 PM
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'Hail Mary' pass for Super Committee-linked farm bill draft still has some life left

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

Democratic leaders in Congress, and President Barack Obama, have shifted their stance on paying for the proposed payroll tax extension, and one of the many options under review for budget offsets includes reductions in farm subsidies likely contained in a draft farm bill sent to the Deficit Reduction Joint Committee (aka Super Committee), sources advise.

Democratic leaders are now convinced the Senate will not extend the payroll tax cut by raising taxes, even on the few Americans who earn more than $1 million a year. That has lead Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and President Obama to mull a combination of spending cuts and other revenue sources – including farm subsidy reductions likely tied to the farm bill draft most people think is dead and only a foundation for a more regular order process in 2012.

Among the budget offset options under consideration: reducing support for mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, or raising the fees the government-sponsored enterprises charge lenders to guarantee mortgages; reducing farm subsidies; and selling broadband-spectrum access. The House-passed bill includes some of these and other spending cuts to finance a one-year extension of the payroll-tax cut and an extension of jobless benefits up to 59 weeks—40 weeks shorter than the current 99-week limit.

Obama summoned Reid and his party leaders to the White House on Wednesday for a closed-door strategy session. Passage of the House bill apparently increased pressure on Reid to find an alternative to the millionaire’s surtax.

Comments: Most sources still give low odds for a last-minute insertion of the draft farm bill as a budget offset. But as I have noted so many times before, anything this Congress does-- or does not do -- would not surprise me. Something tells me this Hail Mary pass won't meet the same success as when the Pittsburgh Steelers tried it. But some Democratic farm-state lawmakers are sure pushing hard for this approach.

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






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