ORANGE CITY, Iowa--Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack thinks House Republicans' excuses for not reauthorizing farm and nutrition programs before going on break just don't cut it.
"The House leadership offered two reasons why they didn't vote on the farm bill," Vilsack said after watching his wife, Christie, debate her opponent for the Hawkeye State's 4th District, Rep. Steve King, in Orange City. "They said there wasn't enough time and they said they didn't have enough votes. Well, they left days early, so they had enough time. And the reality is they never really whipped it. They never really counted the votes. Because they didn't count the votes, they didn't realize that they had them. If they had put a farm bill up on that floor, I believe they would have gotten those 218 votes."
Vilsack said that Republicans, in trying to align the farm bill with the budget authored by Budget Committee chairman and vice presidential nominee, Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, are asking too much from rural America.
"Whose cuts are we taking responsibility for?" he asked. "Is it the Defense Department? Is it that we aren't willing to talk about revenues? That's my concern. I don't want rural America to pay more of its fair share for deficit reduction."
And by putting it off this long, the chances of getting something done in the expected, post-election, lame-duck session are anything but a given.
"This is much more complicated now," the former Iowa governor said. "Instead of the focus being solely on rural America -- as it should be --now it's put into the context of sequester, deficit reduction, and tax policy. We're basically saying the people who couldn't solve these problems in two years will now have to solve them in four weeks. I'm just a little skeptical and concerned."
An earlier version of the story incorrectly stated the district in which King and Vilsack are vying; it is the 4th.