It took Congress three years to pass a bill that deals with the most fundamentally universal aspect of American life: eating.
The Senate gave the final stamp of approval on the five-year farm bill Tuesday, voting 68-32. The 959-page, nearly $1 trillion bill is a massive overhaul of food policy, and covers all sorts of food-related items, such as eliminating direct payments to farmers in lieu of crop insurance and cutting $8 billion in food-stamp funding.
The final bill is a product of on-again, off-again conference-committee negotiations. “It’s done!” Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow exclaimed after its final passage. Fellow Democratic Sen. Barbara Mikulski had given her a high-five on the Senate floor during the vote.
But not everyone was pleased with the final product.
Nine Senate Democrats, including Kirsten Gillibrand and Elizabeth Warren, joined 23 Republicans in opposing the bill.
Sen. Robert Casey of Pennsylvania and other Democrats cited cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, aka food stamps, in their decision to oppose the bill.
“There’s a lot in the bill that I could certainly support…. Debbie Stabenow deserves a lot of credit for dropping it down from where the House was,” Casey said Tuesday. The House version of the bill called for $39 billion in SNAP cuts. “But I just couldn’t at this time support a cut of that dimension.”
Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders also worried about the food-stamp cuts but said he voted for the bill after receiving assurances from Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin that the state will be able “to protect lower-income Vermonters from these cuts” through state funding. At the same time, Sanders said, he could not ignore the needs of Vermont’s well-known dairy industry.
Passing farm bills has historically been an easy and bipartisan effort, but progress on pushing this legislation through had been impeded over disagreements on food-stamp, dairy, and sugar programs, as well as crop insurance and other aspects of agricultural policy. The previous farm bill had been temporarily extended during last year’s fiscal-cliff deal, but expired at the end of September.
Such swift approval in Congress this time around belies how tough of a go it’s been to reach passage. The farm bill unexpectedly failed in the House last summer when conservatives voted against it because cuts to the food-stamp program didn’t go deep enough, while a bloc of liberals voted no because the cuts went too far. This time around, the momentum was there for passage, bolstered by the prospect of another “dairy cliff” and a spike in milk prices, as well as by the support of a broad range of interest groups.
As with so many aspects of legislating, it’s not pretty to watch how the sausage is made (or in this case, how the corn is grown). Things were so rough that House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas had said that if he died during the final run-up to the bill, “I want a glass of milk carved on my tombstone — because it’s what killed me.”
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Before we get to the specifics of this exposé about escorts working the Iowa and New Hampshire primary crowds, let’s get three things out of the way: 1.) It’s from Cosmopolitan; 2.) most of the women quoted use fake (if colorful) names; and 3.) again, it’s from Cosmopolitan. That said, here’s what we learned:
- Business was booming: one escort who says she typically gets two inquiries a weekend got 15 requests in the pre-primary weekend.
- Their primary season clientele is a bit older than normal—”40s through mid-60s, compared with mostly twentysomething regulars” and “they’ve clearly done this before.”
- They seemed more nervous than other clients, because “the stakes are higher when you’re working for a possible future president” but “all practiced impeccable manners.”
- One escort “typically enjoy[s] the company of Democrats more, just because I feel like our views line up a lot more.”
No matter where you stand on mandating companies to include a backdoor in encryption technologies, it doesn’t make sense to allow that decision to be made on a state level. “The problem with state-level legislation of this nature is that it manages to be both wildly impractical and entirely unenforceable,” writes Brian Barrett at Wired. There is a solution to this problem. “California Congressman Ted Lieu has introduced the ‘Ensuring National Constitutional Rights for Your Private Telecommunications Act of 2016,’ which we’ll call ENCRYPT. It’s a short, straightforward bill with a simple aim: to preempt states from attempting to implement their own anti-encryption policies at a state level.”
Much has been made of David Brooks’s recent New York Times column, in which confesses to missing already the civility and humanity of Barack Obama, compared to who might take his place. In NewYorker.com, Jeffrey Frank reminds us how critical such attributes are to foreign policy. “It’s hard to imagine Kennedy so casually referring to the leader of Russia as a gangster or a thug. For that matter, it’s hard to imagine any president comparing the Russian leader to Hitler [as] Hillary Clinton did at a private fund-raiser. … Kennedy, who always worried that miscalculation could lead to war, paid close attention to the language of diplomacy.”
The New Covenant. The Third Way. The Democratic Leadership Council style. Call it what you will, but whatever centrist triangulation Bill Clinton embraced in 1992, Hillary Clinton wants no part of it in 2016. Writing for Bloomberg, Sasha Issenberg and Margaret Talev explore how Hillary’s campaign has “diverged pointedly” from what made Bill so successful: “For Hillary to survive, Clintonism had to die.” Bill’s positions in 1992—from capital punishment to free trade—“represented a carefully calibrated diversion from the liberal orthodoxy of the previous decade.” But in New Hampshire, Hillary “worked to juggle nostalgia for past Clinton primary campaigns in the state with the fact that the Bill of 1992 or the Hillary of 2008 would likely be a marginal figure within today’s Democratic politics.”
At first, “it was pleasant” to see Trevor Noah “smiling away and deeply dimpling in the Stewart seat, the seat that had lately grown gray hairs,” writes The Atlantic‘s James Parker in assessing the new host of the once-indispensable Daily Show. But where Jon Stewart was a heavyweight, Noah is “a very able lightweight, [who] needs time too. But he won’t get any. As a culture, we’re not about to nurture this talent, to give it room to grow. Our patience was exhausted long ago, by some other guy. We’re going to pass judgment and move on. There’s a reason Simon Cowell is so rich. Impress us today or get thee hence. So it comes to this: It’s now or never, Trevor.”