Senate-Passed Farm Bill May Have 'Blue Slip' Problems

August 9, 2012 01:20 AM

via a special arrangement with Informa Economics, Inc.

If confirmed, another hurdle for new farm bill

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

The Senate farm bill, according to some contacts, may have what is termed a "blue slip issue" which if confirmed would pose another thorny issue ahead.

The blue slip issues reportedly relate to two matters
- (1) the WTO cotton case and (2) the Senate bill changes the tax code relative to language dealing with the Foundation for Food and Agricultural Research.

A Senate source said they do not believe there is a blue slip problem with regards to the Foundation in that there is no mention of the Foundation being tax exempt or tax code designation. However, the Senate source did not respond to a potential blue slip problems regarding the cotton case with Brazil.

Another Senate source said, "Foundation language was fixed prior to floor consideration [of Senate farm bill] and cotton language is in every farm bill since at least 1990. Seems that the House is doing what they've been doing since the spring -- worrying more about the Senate than the House. Maybe that is why they can't get a bill passed!"


Background: If the Senate, either intentionally or inadvertently, originates a revenue-raising bill, any Member of the House has the option of calling up a "blue-slip resolution" (named after the color of paper it is printed on after passage) to send the measure back to the Senate. The resolution gets immediate consideration as a matter of constitutional privilege, is debatable for an hour and is not subject to amendment (though it may be tabled or referred to committee).

In simplified form, a blue-slip resolution typically reads as follows: "Resolved, That the Senate bill S xxx, in the opinion of this House, contravenes the first clause of the seventh section of the first article of the Constitution of the United States and is an infringement of the privileges of this House and that such bill be respectfully returned to the Senate with a message communicating this resolution."

Perspective: The constitutional problem is that the Senate measure proposes to raise revenue and that is a no-no in a bill emanating from the Senate. If so, that means that even if the House were to pass a farm bill, and even if the Senate could get over any procedural hurdles to go to conference (several motions to go to conference are needed and all are fully debatable, meaning they need 60 votes), the Senate's got bigger problems if they do, indeed, have a blue slip problem and if so it will be interesting to see how they intend to fix the matter.

A veteran congressional source said, "One solution to the Senate’s apparent problem could be to implement the Stabenow-Peterson plan whereby the Senate takes up the House disaster bill, strikes the House provisions, and inserts the Senate farm bill without the offending provisions and requests a conference with the House. This may be the fastest – and maybe the only – way to get a bill done by Sept. 30. This blue slip issue sort of puts the ball back in the Senate’s court. It is an issue the Senate has to resolve to get a bill done."


Bottom line: Top congressional sources have made it clear that both Senate Finance staffers and others "scrubbed" the Senate farm bill to make sure there were no "blue slip" problems. However, one source said there "could be" a problem on a technical basis relative to cotton, but there were no such blue slip issues brought up with similar if not exact language in the past two farm bills. As for whether the Senate would take up the House-passed disaster bill and insert a revised Senate farm bill, several sources said Senate leadership would not likely want to do anything that would stall much needed ag disaster assistance when lawmakers return Sept. 10.


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






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