The House passes the “updated” farm bill, with zero drama
posted at 4:01 pm on January 29, 2014 by Erika Johnsen
For all of the to-do in Congress last year about finally separating out the food-stamp and agricultural-subsidy components that make up the omnibus disaster that is the federal “farm bill,” the version on which the House and Senate conferees have since been laboring (with the persistent and irate input of just about every food- and agriculture-based lobby under the sun) sailed through the House this morning with very little legislative fanfare. Neither the GOP nor the Democrats decided to make a stink about it this time, probably preferring to get into another fight over it during this phase of delicate pre-midterms politics, via Politico:
Given up for dead just months ago, a new five-year farm bill cleared the House Wednesday morning, raising hopes that Congress can send it on to President Barack Obama no later than next week.
Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow wants to complete Senate debate before next Wednesday, and the strength of the 251-166 House vote could mean the Michigan Democrat will meet her goal even sooner.
Filling hundreds of pages, the giant measure combines a landmark rewrite of commodity programs together with bipartisan reforms and savings from food stamps. It caps years of struggle spanning two Congresses, a political saga largely ignored by the national press and White House but one that fractured the old farm and food coalition as never before.
Given this history, the breadth of support Wednesday was all the more striking. Republicans, including Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), backed the measure 162-63. A narrow majority of Democrats opposed the bill, but among the 89 who backed the measure were the party’s very top leaders, including Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D- Calif.), Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C), the assistant Democratic leader.
The total ten-year cost is pegged at more than $950 billion, and while the legislation’s apologists are congratulating themselves on the reduction in food-stamp spending (…by one percent, to a program whose enrollment has nearly doubled in just the past five years) and the almost-elimination of direct payments to farmers (…which is partially balanced out by the increases to the federal crop-insurance program), this is in essence still just a recently metastasized welfare program couple with a couple hundred billion dollars in market-busting corporate pork for large agribusinesses. MSMers are hailing the development as Congress “finally coming together and getting something done,” but… I would interpret this as pretty much an enforcement of the status quo and just about the opposite of “getting something done.”
I have a hard time seeing the Senate raising any kind of ruckus over the legislation when the House is already on board, so meet your new agricultural policy for at least the next five years, America — which is more or less the same as the old agricultural policy.