Does Congress do Anything on Time?

It's 5:30 in DC (4:30 in the home office) and Congress STILL hasn't taken up the farm bill. It makes one wonder if they have the votes to pass it. In the meantime, here's an update from Congress Daily that was forwarded to our inboxes a few minutes ago. It looks like Pelosi needed to find more Democratic votes to pass the farm bill, since a large number of Republicans are now set to oppose it. In our view, she had two choices to find more Democratic votes. She could support real reform of farm programs, which would upset the House Agriculture Committee, or she could start throwing money around like a drunken sailor. It appears she chose the latter.

We're going to the grocery store. Hopefully they won't pass the farm bill while we're gone.


Dems Alter Farm Bill To Win Over Liberals As GOP Rebels

House Democrats sweetened the farm bill today for urban members in the face of Republican defections over financing of the legislation. Democratic leaders said the overnight negotiations will propel passage of the bill, scheduled for floor debate today. Republicans supported the bill in committee, but withdrew their endorsement because of a plan to pay for a $4 billion increase in food stamps by taxing royalties, interest and other payments U.S. foreign-owned companies make to foreign affiliates. Agriculture Chairman Peterson said Republicans forced him, Speaker Pelosi and other House leaders to work late into the night to make changes to woo urban liberals. "The speaker knocked some heads together last night," Peterson said.

"It came close to being unraveled." At 2 a.m., Pelosi approved a change in the McGovern-Dole international school feeding program, shifting its funding source from appropriated funds to mandatory spending and providing $840 million over five years for that program. Peterson said that provision won the support of Rep. James McGovern, D-Mass., a leader on hunger issues

To pay for the McGovern-Dole program and other issues, Peterson said he made another $1 billion cut in the crop insurance program, bringing the total to $3 billion in addition to $2 billion in savings from shifting the timing of crop insurance payments. Peterson said if crop insurance executives and agents are upset about the cuts, they can blame Republicans "for costing them close to $1 billion over 10 years." He observed that Republican opposition gave McGovern "the leverage"

to force the change. Peterson said the bill will fund the second five years of the 10-year scoring of the crop insurance program through an offset from the energy bill that would cut oil company royalties and tax breaks. Peterson said he achieved savings by ending the renewable energy programs after five years rather than continuing them indefinitely. Peterson said the tax provision, sponsored by Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Texas, was scored at $3.2 billion over five years, coming up short of the amount needed for the food stamp funding increase. Budget maneuvering made up the difference, Peterson said.

A provision allowing the interstate shipment of state-inspected meat was removed. Consumer groups, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, and the American Federation of Government Employees issued a statement today opposing that provision. Peterson said an alternative farm bill amendment offered by Rep. Ron Kind, D-Wis., will be the first of 31 amendments debated and predicted it would not win many votes. Kind was counting on support from liberals, but Peterson and Pelosi might have outmaneuvered him. Peterson said four GOP members of the Agriculture Committee and several other Republicans have told him they will vote for the bill. "If [Republicans] want to hang their hats on this, the whole middle of the country might be blue before this is over," Peterson said today after the House Democratic Caucus met to discuss the bill.

-- by Jerry Hagstrom


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