Court-packing wasn’t the only Democratic miscalculation this week. After Nancy Pelosi floated her original plan for a continuing resolution, the White House and Republicans began blasting House Democrats for leaving out aid to farmers. That threatened to give Republicans very big rhetorical bats coming into the last few weeks of the election.
In fact, Donald Trump had already begun taking practice swings in the on-deck circle over the issue, which speaks loudly in the rural districts where his support is strongest:
President Trump said he was giving an additional $13 billion of aid to America’s farmers at a campaign rally in Wisconsin on Thursday night, doling out government resources to key supporters as he looks to solidify his rural base ahead of Election Day.
“I’m proud to announce that I’m doing even more to support Wisconsin farmers,” Mr. Trump said, adding that some of that money would go to dairy, cranberry and ginseng farmers in the state that have been hurt by the coronavirus pandemic. …
The Department of Agriculture said on Friday that the money would be coming from the Commodity Credit Corporation fund, which was replenished as part of the relief legislation.
That had one problem: Pelosi’s CR. The CCC expected to get replenished in a Phase 4 relief bill, but that’s been stalled for months. Instead, Republicans wanted to add it into the CR to carry spending authorization through to mid-December. For whatever reason — likely to keep Trump from getting pork to his rural-voter base — Pelosi and House Democrats left it out.
Whatever Pelosi was thinking by leaving it out, she quickly rethought the issue when Trump and Republicans began beating up her caucus over the issue. When her own members began to revolt, Pelosi caved on CCC, allowing for a lopsided bipartisan majority on the CR last night:
On a lopsided vote of 359-57, the House sent to the Senate a revised continuing resolution that would extend current funding for all federal agencies through Dec. 11.
The bipartisan pact would restore money for farm payments sought by lawmakers from both parties that House leaders had rejected in an earlier stopgap measure introduced Monday. It also would restore new money for a pandemic-related program funding subsidized meals to children who would normally receive them when schools are open, among other nutrition assistance, Democrats said.
“We have reached an agreement with Republicans on the CR to add nearly $8 billion in desperately needed nutrition assistance for hungry schoolchildren and families,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement.
Pelosi tried to dress up the retreat by claiming she got concessions on limits for CCC’s operation. Republicans scoffed at that spin:
The agreement also contains language Pelosi said would prevent “funds for farmers from being misused for a Big Oil bailout,” after earlier reports surfaced that the administration has been planning to divert Commodity Credit Corporation funds to refiners.
“The last thing the United States needs right now, in the midst of a pandemic, is a lapse in government funding that was set to expire at the end of this month,” Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Ill., said during floor debate. “I’m extremely disappointed that it took us this long to get the CCC, Commodity Credit Corporation, replenished in this agreement and not held hostage by the majority.”
This should now pass easily in the Senate, perhaps as soon as this week but at the very least well ahead of the September 30 deadline for the budget year. That kicks the can to mid-December, where Republicans will still have some leverage if it ends up being a lame-duck period for either Trump, the Senate Republican majority, or both. Not a lot of leverage, of course, but some. Of course, House Democrats might be a bit worried about their own majority given the lack of GOTV efforts from the DNC and the rioting that has swept across their urban-core base, too. December 11 works out well for both parties looking to hedge bets.
So who won? Steny Hoyer doesn’t seem very happy with the outcome:
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., however, criticized the process, saying that the resolution is only a temporary stopgap measure.
“A lot of to and froing. A lot of people wanted this, a lot of people wanted that. A lot of people didn’t want this, a lot of people didn’t want that,” he said. “But we have an agreement that will keep the government functioning for the people from now until December 11th.”
He added, “I’m hopeful that everyone will put their heads together to get the appropriation process done and we’ll probably do it in an omnibus, not single appropriation bills. Which is not a good way to do it either.”
True enough, but that’s been SOP for a decade now or more. It will take mature and humble leadership to get back to normal order on budgeting, and that … doesn’t seem to be in the offering at the moment.