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 »
Donald Trump "nearly quintupled the monthly rent his presidential campaign pays for its headquarters at Trump Tower to $169,758 in July, when he was raising funds from donors, compared with March, when he was self-funding his campaign." A campaign spokesman "said the increased office space was needed to accommodate an anticipated increase in employees," but the campaign's paid staff has actually dipped by about 25 since March. The campaign has also paid his golf courses and restaurants about $260,000 since mid-May.
“My view is, first you get them to laugh, then you get them to listen," says Michelle Obama in a new profile in Variety. "So I’m always game for a good joke, and I’m not so formal in this role. There’s very little that we can’t do that people wouldn’t appreciate.” According to writer Ted Johnson, Mrs. Obama has leveraged the power of pop culture far beyond her predecessors. "Where are the people?" she asks. "Well, they’re not reading the op-ed pieces in the major newspapers. They’re not watching Sunday morning news talk shows. They’re doing what most people are doing: They are watching TV.”
The FBI and other US security agencies are currently investigating a series of computer breaches found within The New York Times and other news organizations. It is expected that the hacks were carried out by individuals working for Russian intelligence. It is believed that these cyber attacks are part of a "broader series of hacks that also have focused on Democratic Party organizations, the officials said."
In a 3-1 decision, the National Labor Relations Board ruled in favor of Columbia University graduate students, granting them the legal right to unionize. The petition was brought by a number of teaching assistants enrolled in graduate school. This decision could pave the way for thousands of new union members, depending on if students at other schools nationwide wish to join unions. A number of universities spoke out in opposition to this possibility, saying injecting collective bargaining into graduate school could create a host of difficulties.
Following Texas Senator Ted Cruz's controversial decision not to endorse Donald Trump at the Republican National Convention, instead telling voters to "vote (their) conscience," a new poll out today shows that his approval ratings have sunk. The poll from Public Policy Polling shows that 39 percent of Texans approve of the job Cruz is doing, compared to 48 percent who don't approve. Additionally, despite winning the GOP primary in the state, the poll found that if the primary was held today, Trump would garner 52 percent of support to just 38 percent for Cruz.