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.”
What We're Following See More »
The Commission on Presidential Debates put out a statement today that gives credence to Donald Trump's claims that he had a bad microphone on Monday night. "Regarding the first debate, there were issues regarding Donald Trump's audio that affected the sound level in the debate hall," read the statement in its entirety.
"A video of Donald Trump testifying under oath about his provocative rhetoric about Mexicans and other Latinos is set to go public" as soon as today. "Trump gave the testimony in June at a law office in Washington in connection with one of two lawsuits he filed last year after prominent chefs reacted to the controversy over his remarks by pulling out of plans to open restaurants at his new D.C. hotel. D.C. Superior Court Judge Brian Holeman said in an order issued Thursday evening that fears the testimony might show up in campaign commercials were no basis to keep the public from seeing the video."
No matter that his recall of foreign leaders leaves something to be desired, Gary Johnson is the choice of the Chicago Tribune's editorial board. The editors argue that Donald Trump couldn't do the job of president, while hitting Hillary Clinton for "her intent to greatly increase federal spending and taxation, and serious questions about honesty and trust." Which leaves them with Johnson. "Every American who casts a vote for him is standing for principles," they write, "and can be proud of that vote. Yes, proud of a candidate in 2016."
Speaking at the funeral of former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres, President Obama "compared Peres to 'other giants of the 20th century' such as Nelson Mandela and Queen Elizabeth who 'find no need to posture or traffic in what's popular in the moment.'" Among the 6,000 mourners at the service was Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Obama called Abbas's presence a sign of the "unfinished business of peace" in the region.
Three million—a number that lays "bare the significant gap between Donald Trump’s bare-bones operation and the field program that Clinton and her hundreds of aides have been building for some 17 months."