On Friday, aday after passing a bill on nutrition program funding on a party-line vote, the House of Representatives has passed a fiscal 2014 Continuing Resolution on a 230 to 189 vote.
While continuing to fund government spending, the Continuing Resolution (CR) would create a “full and permanent” delay of Affordable Care Act (commonly known as “Obamacare”), said Oklahoma Rep. Frank Lucas, chairman of the House Agriculture Committee. “My constituents … and many others across the country have spoken loud and clear in opposition of this flawed law. This vote reassures Americans that the House remains committed to providing quality health care reform that is not rationed by the federal government.
“It is my hope that H.J. Res. 59 will be passed in the Senate and sent to the president’s desk for his signature. The American people are depending on it.”
Lucas can hope for such all he wants -- but it won’t happen. Democrats control the Senate, where the House CR is destined for failure. And if the House’s CR somehow reaches President Obama, he will surely veto it.
Meanwhile, the House’s controversial nutrition bill is destined for a severe paring down, at least, in conference with the Senate. With the White House waving the veto pen against the legislation, Senate leaders, still waiting for House conferees to be named, have refused to even consider the $40 billion in nutrition program cuts.
The White House stance was reiterated by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, who called the House nutrition bill “a highly partisan step that does nothing to promote a bipartisan, comprehensive farm bill and stands no chance of becoming law. The harmful plan championed today by House leadership would deny critical nutrition assistance for millions of Americans, including working families with children, senior citizens, veterans, and adults who are still looking for work. … (I)t's time for House leadership to do their part by appointing conferees as soon as possible and completing the comprehensive bill that farmers, ranchers and rural Americans deserve.”
The Democrat pile-on continued with Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow, chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee. “We have never before seen this kind of partisanship injected into a farm bill. Not only does this House bill represent a shameful attempt to kick millions of families in need off of food assistance, it’s also a monumental waste of time. The bill will never pass the Senate, and will never be signed by the president.”
The “good news,” said Stabenow – which was largely echoed by commodity and farm groups – is that now a farm bill conference can go forward. “We are close to the finish line. If House Republican leaders drop the divisive issues, appoint conferees and work with us in a bipartisan way, we can finalize a farm bill that creates jobs, reforms agriculture policy, and reduces the deficit by tens of billions of dollars. It’s time to get a comprehensive farm bill done to give farmers and ranchers the certainty they need to continue growing the economy.”
Following the House nutrition bill vote, Roger Johnson, president of National Farmers Union, said stripping nutrition programs from the farm bill “was a mistake from the beginning. The level of cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program included in the legislation not only denies benefits to 4 million low-income Americans, but is also sure to make the conference process more difficult. It is time for the House to take meaningful action. House leadership must appoint conferees right away so that the stalled comprehensive 2013 farm bill can be finalized and enacted as soon as possible.”
American Soybean Association (ASA) President Danny Murphy, a soybean farmer from Canton, Miss., said it was past time for Congress to act on a new farm bill. “This process has gone on for more than three years now, and we still have no long-term legislation in place. That is entirely too long. The current farm bill, which already had been extended once by Congress, expires on Sept. 30 and with it authority and funding for key market development, conservation, agricultural research, and price support programs. These are the real consequences of congressional inaction, and we expect the House to appoint its conferees as soon as possible, and we call on both chambers to work across party lines to craft a bill that addresses the needs of both farmers and consumers.”
There is no chance a new farm bill will be in place by the end of September when the current extension of the 2008 farm bill expires. “The only extension Farm Bureau supports is a five-year extension that looks a lot like the new farm bill that is working its way through Congress,” said Bob Stallman, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation.