Opening up a new line of attack against Rep. Paul Ryan, President Obama told an Iowa audience on Monday that Mitt Romney's running mate and other congressional Republicans need to drop their objections to passing a farm bill to help farmers deal with persistent drought and other problems.
The reauthorization of a five-year, $500 billion bill to provide a safety net for the nation’s food producers as well as funding for food stamps and conservation programs has been mired in an unusually bitter election-year political fight. Democrats object to a proposed $16 billion cut in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or food stamps, while conservatives would rather the cuts be more in tune with the budget outlined by Ryan, which called for a $33 billion reduction.
"Unfortately right now, too many members of Congress are blocking the farm bill from becoming law," Obama told a crowd in Council Bluffs, Iowa. "I am told that Governor Romney's new running mate Paul Ryan will be around Iowa in the next few days, and he is one of the congressmen standing in the way. So if you happen to see Congressman Ryan, tell him how important this farm bill is to Iowa and the rural communities, because we have to put politics aside when it comes to doing the right thing for rural America and for Iowa."
Obama said his administration is seeking to help farmers and ranchers by purchasing more than $150 million in meat and fish that can be frozen for later use. Last week, it announced it would provide $30 million to ranchers and farmers to get more water to their livestock and land because of the drought.
The Romney campaign swiftly condemned Obama's remarks.
“Paul Ryan hails from an agriculture state and supported disaster relief, and the truth is no one will work harder to defend farmers and ranchers than the Romney-Ryan ticket," campaign spokesman Ryan Williams said. "After nearly four years of failure, it’s no wonder that Barack Obama returns to the state that launched his presidential campaign with nothing more than broken promises and false attacks.
Kevin Smith, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, also said that Senate Democrats deserved blame for an impasse on helping farmers.
“The Democratic-controlled Senate left town for August without taking action on a drought aid bill that passed the House with bipartisan support, including the support of Chairman Ryan," Smith said in a statement.
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