House GOP Leaders Push Three-Month Extension of 2008 Farm Bill, But Democrats Balk

September 15, 2012 04:54 AM

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Lawmakers push for an extension of dairy program

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Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) announced Friday that the House would not hold scheduled votes the first week in October, pending the Senate vote on the continuing resolution (CR). That means the House will not be in session again until after the election; the next House votes are scheduled for Nov. 13 and if House GOP leaders can somehow clear some major hurdles, a short-term extension of the 2008 Farm Bill would be on the agenda.

The House will only be in for three days next week; Wednesday through Friday. The Senate is expected to cancel its October session after it passes the CR.

No House votes in October. "With the Senate’s expected passage of the continuing resolution, we no longer anticipate votes in the House in the week of Oct. 1," Cantor said on the floor, following Friday’s vote series. "This is a change from the original House calendar."

As for the fate of a new farm bill, the measure continues to be mostly caught up in politics. House GOP leaders are attempting to find the votes for a short-term, three-month extension of the 2008 Farm Bill, but House Democrats, including Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), ranking member of the House Ag Committee, want no part of any farm bill extension and prefer, instead, to have the House vote on a new farm bill package which most unbiased observers believe would come short of the 218 votes needed for passage. Many farm group lobbyists are not supporting any farm bill extension and instead are aligning themselves with the Democrats' position.

But if House GOP leaders can garner the 218 votes needed for a three-month extension, it would come up for a vote next week and before the 2008 Farm Bill expires on Sept. 30.

Peterson predicted the effort would fail. "They can try to move it but I don't think they will. They don't have the votes," Peterson said.

House Ag Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) said, "The leadership would like to know if an extension through the end of the calendar year is the way to go," adding that potential is what is being whipped. Lucas said that the short-term bill, which would extend the 2008 legislation by three months, would include disaster aid to help livestock producers whose programs expired in 2011 and who have been negatively impacted by this year's drought.

Peterson acknowledged what other farm bill experts have noted for months – that a short-term bill is not necessary since most farm safety net payments will not be needed until the spring. While there will be a lapse in support for dairy farmers, Peterson said the payment lost will be very small.

Over on the Senate side, even if the House were to vote for a short-term extension, Senate Ag Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) has made it clear the Senate would not take up the bill.

As Lucas whipped the extension measure, Peterson uncorked, saying, again, that he is strongly opposed to any short-term extension of the farm bill. "If anybody would take the time to learn what the hell is really going on here, people would understand. Ninety-eight percent of people in this town have no goddamn idea what's going on and they're spouting all this nonsense," he said. "I'm tired of it." Peterson said that although the farm bill expires Sept. 30, the negative effects, a sharp spike in dairy prices, for instance, would not take effect until January. An extension would make it more difficult to pass a five-year farm bill, he said.


"This is strictly political cover is all this is, to make it look like they're doing something," Peterson said. "What upsets me is he's whipping something that is really irrelevant. And they never whipped the farm bill. They just said, 'Well, we don't have the votes.' Why the hell didn't they whip it? If they have time to whip this, what the hell? Why aren't they whipping the bill?"

Meanwhile, Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) and Kristi Noem (R-S.D.) met on Friday with Cantor to press for action on the farm bill before the election. Welch told The Hill the meeting was "inconclusive." He said he pushed Cantor for an up-or-down vote on the five-year measure but that Cantor said he didn’t know if that was "doable."

As for the dairy program issue, 60 senators and representatives wrote to leaders on Friday urging either passage of a full farm bill or a short-term farm bill including an extension of dairy programs. Lawmakers are urging congressional leaders to extend the Milk Income Loss Contract (MILC) program to protect dairy producers as the 2008 Farm Bill expires. In a letter, the lawmakers say the extended MILC program could be attached to an extension of the farm bill or a disaster-aid measure.

Comments: Farm bill Democrats and many farm group lobbyists are repeating what, sadly, has been wrong with Washington for too many years and across both Democratic and Republican administrations and Congresses -- an inability to take half a glass and instead insist on a full glass that caters to only what they want. These groups and lawmakers have forgotten what my father taught me while growing up: a glass half full is very good news because he remembered when it was empty (during the Depression).

New farm bill timeline - lame-duck session. Of note, Lucas said, "I think anyone who looks at the circumstances is going to acknowledge that you can't do a complete farm bill by next Friday, therefore we're going to do a farm bill in [the] lame duck." With the elections approaching, he said politics prevent passage of a full bill. That means the odds are rising that a new farm bill measure will, indeed, be part of the already-crowded post-election, lame-duck session of Congress. But once the politics of the 24/7 election is over, you might be surprised how quickly farm bill differences can be rectified. The lame-duck session agenda of course could be altered should Romney best Obama. But history shows any president wants to start a new term with contentious issues out of the way.


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






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