This farm-bill debacle really is turning into quite the — er, interesting? — case study of American politics. On Wednesday evening, House Republicans did indeed come up with some legislation that stripped food stamps from the farm bill, the intention being to split them up into two more easily scrutable issues and end the usual omnibus political momentum their pairing produces. Their new legislation is purely concerned with, ahem, what I will very generously refer to as “agricultural policy,” and the CBO just came out with their new scoring on the split bill, via The Hill:
The CBO said that the bill would reduce the deficit by $12.9 billion over 10 years compared to current law.
This is far less than President Obama called for in his 2014 budget, which would cut $37.8 billion from farm subsidies. It is also about $1 billion less than the Senate gets from its farm program cuts. …
The CBO said the bill cuts $18.7 billion from the commodity subsidy title and $4.8 billion from environmental programs, though $8.9 billion of the savings would be spent on expanded crop insurance. …
The House farm bill does away with direct farm payments, which have come under attack because they are based on historic production and can go to people no longer engaged in farming. The bill replaces that with new revenue and price supports as well as expanded crop insurance.
And House leadership is seeing if they can’t round up the votes:, via Politico:
Rolling the dice, House Republicans pushed ahead toward floor votes Thursday on a pared-back farm bill that strips out nutrition programs to appease conservatives and reduces the net 10-year costs to about $195.6 billion.
Behind the scenes, the GOP worked relentlessly to line up the last of 218 votes to avoid a repeat of last month’s embarrassing collapse. By a 223-195 margin the bill survived a first procedural test. But the whole strategy remained a political high-wire act uniting Democrats in opposition even as it left the agriculture community badly split. …
House Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions (R-Texas) insisted that the goal was simply to “bifurcate” the legislation and get one piece — most relevant to farmers — to conference with the Senate. But he was met with a blast from Rep, Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), who said backroom deals had been made to “gut” the nutrition title in the months ahead.
Powerful cotton, rice, peanut and sugar cane interests were working with the GOP to round up votes. But the two leading agriculture groups — the American Farm Bureau Federation and National Farmers Union — came out strongly against the GOP strategy, which breaks with nearly a half-century of practice in farm bills.
There’s going to a be a floor vote this afternoon to try and take the thing to conference with the Senate (which will open up a whole other can of worms), but the Democrats and the White House are having the predictable hissy fit, because of the lack of assurance now surrounding their highly precious food-stamp budget:
The White House has threatened to veto a Republican-drafted farm bill, scheduled for a vote in the House on Thursday, that expands the taxpayer-subsidized crop insurance program but omits food stamps for the poor. …
In a statement late on Wednesday, the White House said it would veto the 608-page farm subsidy bill because it “does not contain sufficient commodity and crop insurance reforms” and it omitted food stamps, formally named the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
“This bill … fails to reauthorize nutrition programs, which benefit millions of Americans – in rural, suburban and urban areas alike,” said the White House. “The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program is a cornerstone of our nation’s food assistance safety net, and should not be left behind as the rest of the Farm Bill advances.” …
“Republicans are determined to de-fund nutrition assistance. Shame on you,” said Congressman G.K. Butterfield, North Carolina Democrat, when the House opened debate for the day.
More to come.
Update: Heritage is totally owning on this issue, and isn’t shying away from calling out the House Republicans for the hypocrisy that is helping to perpetuate a so-called agricultural policy that isn’t much more than a complex raft of special-interest serving and completely unnecessary price supports, subsidies, and a complex crop-insurance system that basically functions like a federally-sponsored cartel. The whole point of splitting the farm bill up, as I said, should have been to make the two traditionally coupled food stamp and agriculture issues more scrutable — but did they scrutinize the new agriculture bill? …Not really, no.
Update: This afternoon, the House voted to advance the new-but-definitively-not-improved agricultural portion of the traditional farm bill to conference with the Senate, and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor just mentioned on the House floor that they plan to bring forward the food-stamp portion in its own legislative version reasonably soon. There was a chance to, if nothing else, at least make a real stand here about our costly, inefficient, and expensive agriculture (i.e., agribusiness) policy, and most Republicans declined to take it.
House passes farm bill 216-208. No Democratic yeas. 13 GOP nays
— Chad Pergram (@ChadPergram) July 11, 2013
With passage of revamped farm bill, majority Republicans stave off hits from Club for Growth & Heritage Action which wanted bill defeated.
— Chad Pergram (@ChadPergram) July 11, 2013