Bipartisan Praise for Farm Bill Continues, Why Does House Refuse to Take a Vote on It?
At this week's "Farm Bill Now!" rally, Democrats and Republicans came together to urge the House of Representatives to take up the Farm Bill. In June, the Senate achieved rare bipartisan agreement when it passed Senator Debbie Stabenow's 2012 Farm Bill, the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act. Her bill has been widely praised from both sides of the aisle for its significant reforms that cut spending by $23 billion, disaster assistance for farmers, and support for job creation in one of the country's largest economic sectors. The House Agriculture Committee has also passed a bipartisan Farm Bill, but the House Republican leadership is currently blocking that bill from being considered in the full House of Representatives. Work cannot continue on the bill until the full House follows the Senate's lead and passes a full Farm Bill. Sen. Stabenow was joined this week by Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS) and Rep. Kristi Noem (R-SD) in calling on the House to take up and pass a full five-year Farm Bill.
Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS) said: "Passing a Farm Bill is more important now than it has ever been.... I appreciate the efforts of our Chairperson in the Senate, Senator Stabenow, and my colleague from Kansas, Sen. Roberts. The evidence is there that we can come together as Republicans and Democrats to produce a Farm Bill that provides good things.... We know that when a storm comes and it's time to harvest, our farmers will hook up their tractor and go to work. They will not wait to see what's going to happen...we all know that a storm is coming on Sept. 30th when the Farm Bill expires."
Rep. Kristi Noem (R-SD) said: "[Farming is] a risky business, and this year with this drought situation we are certainly seeing that... that's why a Farm Bill is so important, that's why we need the certainty that it brings, and that's why we need to get this Farm bill done now.... We need to continue to work together...the best day that I've had here in Washington, D.C. was the day we marked up the Ag. bill in the House Agriculture committee and it was because it was bipartisan.... Let's get some work done and let's get a Farm Bill now."
Why won't House leadership take up a bill so widely praised by members on both sides of the aisle?
Here's what senators from both parties said as the Farm Bill was overwhelmingly passing the Senate:
Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV), Senate Majority Leader:
"[T]he Republican Leader and I... would be remiss if we didn't say something to the entire Senate about how we feel about this bill and the leadership that was shown by these two fine Senators... We know how hard they worked to get where we are... I cannot say enough, although I will try, to applaud and compliment Senator Stabenow and Senator Roberts..."
Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Senate Minority Leader:
"Senator Stabenow and Senator Roberts have worked together very skillfully... I think we're moving back in the direction of operating the Senate in a way that we sort of traditionally understood we were going to operate the Senate... This is a very fine day in the recent history of the Senate. I congratulate the Chairwoman of the committee and the ranking member. They did a fabulous [job]."
Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT):
"Chairwoman Stabenow and Ranking Member Roberts clearly worked together... I do hope that something happens here, in addition to passing a farm bill... It's the psychology of us being legislators with amendments and working together.... I'm very hopeful that this will help set a tone about working together. It is not an overstatement to say they did work very hard, they did go the extra mile, that is not just fluff, that's not smoke, that's real. I haven't seen this in some time."
Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND):
"I want to say [Chairwoman Stabenow] has provided brilliant leadership on this legislation. I'm in my 26th year here. I have never seen a chairman so personally and directly engaged to make legislation happen in an extraordinarily difficult and challenging environment. When the history of this legislation is written, Senator Stabenow, the Chairman of our committee, will be in the front rank of those who made this happen.
Sen. Mike Johanns (R-NE):
"...we all recognize, including our farmers and ranchers, that our nation's budget situation is more daunting than ever... This Farm Bill, though, like no other committee that I am aware of, has taken on the responsibility of providing deficit reduction... You can only imagine if other committees would accept the same responsibility, how big a step we would take in dealing with our deficit issues."
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT):
"Let me praise both Sen. Stabenow and Sen. Roberts and the Members of the Committee... I've told both of them, I've never seen a farm bill handled this well or this quickly... There is one advantage to it though: no longer will I be getting those Saturday and Sunday and late evening calls from the Chairwoman saying, we have one more issue here. But then she did that with everybody else... Sen. Roberts worked with Sen. Stabenow each step of the way to get a bill. It is the way the Senate used to work and the way the Senate should work and the way the Senate will work. I think the United States Senate owes these two senators a huge debt of gratitude, and I think the country does too.
Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA):
"Thank you madam Chairman for your cooperation on that issue, it is the most cooperation I have seen in the 10 or 15 years that I have been working on this issue on trying to bring some reform ... I also appreciate madam Chairman the work, and the work Ranking Member Roberts, have put into this farm bill..."
Senator Michael Bennett (D-CO):
"...When people tell me, ‘What is wrong with you people? Why can't you work together?' I have the opportunity to point to the bipartisan work of this committee as an example of how we should be approaching our work in the U.S. Senate."
Senator John Hoeven (R-ND):
"Thank you madam Chairman, I truly appreciate your work and your willingness to work with us and also to Ranking Member Roberts. Thank you Senator for your work and perseverance... I know everyone already said it but I do have to commend the both of you for diligently working though this process..."
Senator Ben Nelson (D-NE):
"I have never known in a committee structure a Chairperson who reaches out as you have in this effort. We put together a bipartisan budget savings bill, and if others across our government followed this example and made similar cuts, we would be able to achieve the goal that we all have of reducing the deficit and getting it under control. As I've said in the past, this bill will permit people in agriculture to establish their own risk management tools, rather than having to rely on the good will of the government to bail them out."
Senator Bob Casey (D-PA):
"I want to thank you for your hard work and working with me and our office so closely and your Ranking Member Senator Roberts; we're grateful. It is a significant example of bipartisanship at a time when you don't see enough of it."