We're Worked Up Now

Just when we thought we had gotten over the House Farm Bill and moved on, something comes up to suck us back in. Last week, the blog Rochester Turning referenced our post on Rep. Louise Slaughter, Chairwoman of the House Rules Committee. That would be the committee that prevented a straight payment limits amendment from receiving a vote on the floor of the House. Anyway, Rochester Turning evidently resides in Slaughter's district. And Slaughter's office contacted Rochester Turning to tell them that the Blog for Rural America got their facts wrong. From Rochester Turning's excerpt of Rep. Slaughter's comments:

[Your post]…links to an article that states that the amendment in question was introduce by Rep. Paul Ryan. This amendment however was submitted to the Rules Committee not only by Rep. Ryan, but also by Reps. Kind, Flake, and Blumenauer. The lead sponsors of this amendment were Reps. Kind and Flake, so it was referred to as the Kind/Flake Amendment, or the Fairness in Farm and Food Policy Amendment. This amendment would have completely altered the Farm Bill by severely cutting subsidies for commodity crops, and increased funding even further for nutrition, and conservation programs.

Contrary to what the post says, this amendment (H.AMDT. 700) was made an order by the Rules Committee, and it was debated on the floor of the House for 40 minutes (debate on other amendments was limited to 10 minutes). At the conclusion of the debate, this amendment failed in a recorded vote, 117-309 (Roll no. 747).

This is completely and utterly misleading. Below is my response, which I also posted as a comment at Rochester Turning. And stay tuned, because there are more juicy tidbits I will write about.

 

 

I will assume that this statement did, in fact, come from Rep. Slaughter or one of her employees. If that is the case, it is uninformed at best and at worst intentionally misleading. Stick with me on this one, because providing clarity after this obfuscation is a tough task. Right off the bat, let me say this: The Ryan/Blumenauer/Kind/Flake amendment was not the Fairness in Farm and Food Policy Amendment that did receive a vote. More below.

In the first paragraph from Slaughter’s office quoted on the blog, an article is referred to as being in error. I assume that article is this blog post (written by myself). Here is the paragraph in which Rochester Turning linked to that post:

Furthermore, the Rules Committee (which is controlled by Louise) didn’t even allow amendments on farm program payment limitations (and possibly others) to reach the possibility of being debated.

And here is the paragraph referring to the rules committee from my post:

The payment limits amendment in the House was rejected by the Rules Committee (Chairwoman Louise Slaughter, D-NY). That amendment was originally offered by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI). It was a “clean” amendment- it didn’t have any unrelated or “poison pill” provisions. As a result of the decision by the Rules Committee, this amendment did not even receive a vote during the farm bill debate (which still has not begun). No vote at all was taken on the issue of farm program payment limitations, perhaps the single most debated issue in the entire farm bill process.

Perhaps I should have been clearer in that post. When I refer to the Ryan amendment, I was referring to the Ryan/Blumenauer/Kind/Flake amendment. I referred to it as the Ryan amendment because the Center for Rural Affairs worked with Ryan when he first indicated interest in submitting a payment limits amendment. In fact, if you look at the pdf of the amendment text, you will see that Kind and Flake’s names are added in pen at the top of the bill. They got on the train a little late.

As I mention above, Kind had his own amendment, which was the Fairness in Farm and Food Policy Amendment.

To make it even more clear, the Fairness in Farm and Food policy amendment was sponsored ONLY by Ron Kind (Flake was a co-sponsor at one point, Blumenauer and Ryan I’m not positive about). The reference from Slaughter’s office to a Ryan/Blumenauer/Kind/Flake Fairness in Farm and Food Policy Amendment is completely false. The Farm and Food Policy Amendment was submitted as an amendment to the Rules Committee ONLY by Ron Kind. And when it was considered on the floor, Ron Kind was the ONLY sponsor of the amendment (though many spoke in favor of it). This might sound a little technical and drawn out, but if anyone should be aware of these facts it is the office of the Chairwoman of the Rules Committee. I can only suspect they are deliberately muddying the waters. Some call it spin.

For the record, the Center for Rural Affairs did not support the Kind amendment. We did support the Ryan amendment.

To continue, let me roughly summarize the two amendments and their differences:

  • Kind Fairness in Farm and Food Policy Amendment: Substantial restructuring of farm programs and put the savings into conservation, nutrition, etc. Additionally, a payment limitations measure is contained within.
  • Ryan Amendment (also known as Ryan/Blumenauer/Kind/Flake amendment): Left the structure of farm programs completely intact, instituted a $250,000 cap on farm programs. More modest savings, put into conservation programs. Nothing but payment limitations and a little language saying where the money goes.

There is an important difference here. The Kind amendment is 150 pages long, and rewrites much of what the House Agriculture Committee produced. That sort of amendment is viewed warily by all House members, because they don’t want any of their own committee work completely rewritten on the floor at some point in the future.

On the other hand, the Ryan amendment is 22 pages long, and most of those deal with technical loopholes that are used to evade farm program payment limits. It is the sort of amendment that is NOT rewriting all of the committee’s work. It is, in short, the sort of amendment that has a good chance of passing, because all it does is place a strict limit on the 3 main types of farm programs. It does not change the structure of those programs. In fact, it is nearly identical to the Dorgan-Grassley payment limits bill introduced in the Senate.

That is why I called the Ryan amendment a “clean” amendment. All it did was payment limits. The Kind amendment completely restructured farm programs.

Let's be clear. The Kind Fairness in Farm and Food Policy Amendment was set up to fail. The House leadership was perfectly aware that the Kind amendment would not pass.

On the other hand, the Ryan amendment- straight payment limits- was the sort of reform that could have passed if it had been allowed.

A Representative could have said something along the lines of “Well, I’m not going to vote for that Kind amendment because it just tears up all the farm programs. But the $250,000 cap in the Ryan amendment, well, I can vote for that. It isn’t as drastic and won’t anger the Agriculture Committee as much as Kind’s amendment. Plus, I can tell all of my constituents who have demanded farm bill reform that I took the middle ground”.

But it wasn’t allowed, so we’ll never know if it would have passed. And the House Rules Committee blocked the Ryan amendment. Period. They could have blocked the Kind amendment and allowed the Ryan Amendment. They could have allowed both. And an amendment quite similar to the Ryan amendment was offered in 2002. It got 200 votes, 18 short of passage.

Rep. Slaughter grandly advocated an independent Rules Committee while extolling the virtues of a truly open legislative process in her interview with Jonathan Singer a few months back. For the Rules Committee and House leadersip, the true test of that openness does not consist of allowing a vote on an amendment the House leadership knows will fail. It’s allowing a vote on an amendment that might succeed.

 

 

The list of amendments that were submitted to the Rules committee for consideration is here, with the Ryan/Blumenauer/Kind/Flake amendment included, as well as Kind’s own amendment.

The list of amendments approved for consideration by the Rules Committee and allowed on the floor is here (Part B, halfway down the page).

There is no Ryan/Blumenauer/Kind/Flake amendment to be seen on the list approved for consideration. I would encourage everyone to go read the summaries of the amendments that were approved for floor consideration. You might think that one of those could have been dropped to make room for a truly substantive amendment.

The actual text of the Kind Fairness in Farm and Food Policy Amendment is here (pdf).

The text of the Ryan Amendment, submitted to the Rules Committee but rejected, is here (pdf).


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