PEOPLE

City Guy Living on the Farm Bill

WASHINGTON - JUNE 17: U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) speaks during a Green Jobs Summit on Capitol Hill on June 17, 2009 in Washington, DC. Senate Democrats held the summit. (Photo by Robert Giroux/Getty Images)
National Journal
Jan. 9, 2014, 10:33 a.m.

As a House-Sen­ate con­fer­ence moves to­ward com­ple­tion of the farm bill, Sen­ate Ag­ri­cul­ture Com­mit­tee Chair­wo­man Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., has ap­poin­ted a new chief of staff.

“I think my friends are about ready to stage an in­ter­ven­tion if I talk about the farm bill one more time,” said Bill Sweeney, who suc­ceeds Dan Farough as Stabenow’s top aide. “I could bore you to death.”

On Wed­nes­day, Sweeney at­ten­ded a series of meet­ings to re­view the status of the five-year farm bill, a co­lossal piece of le­gis­la­tion that touches on everything from food stamps to duck pop­u­la­tions. Not­with­stand­ing a dis­agree­ment about “sup­ply man­age­ment” re­stric­tions — Speak­er John Boehner is adam­antly op­posed to a cap on milk pro­duc­tion — Sweeney is op­tim­ist­ic that a deal is near.

“People look at Wash­ing­ton and think noth­ing can get done,” he said. “We were told re­peatedly we were nev­er go­ing to get a farm bill done in this kind of en­vir­on­ment “¦ yet we have. We got it passed on the floor of the Sen­ate twice with huge bi­par­tis­an ma­jor­it­ies.”

Sweeney’s day was not lim­ited to farm-bill ne­go­ti­ations, but also in­cluded a meet­ing with Sen. Lind­sey Gra­ham, R-S.C., on cur­rency ma­nip­u­la­tion by mem­bers of the Trans-Pa­cific Part­ner­ship. On top of that, his sched­ule was jam-packed with “all the oth­er little things that per­col­ate up when you’re chief of staff,” he said.

“I have already apo­lo­gized to all of the former chiefs of staff that I ever worked with. I nev­er real­ized how much stuff was brought to them”¦. A lot of times, when people reach an im­passe, they come to me. Some­times you wish you could just say, ‘Ask some­body else.’ But there’s nobody else to ask.”

The Wayne, Mich., nat­ive says he was ini­tially drawn to the Demo­crat­ic Party be­cause of is­sues like so­cial in­justice and in­come in­equal­ity. “I don’t want to dis­par­age my friends on the oth­er side of the aisle, but I would just say that the Demo­crat­ic Party puts more of an em­phas­is on these things,” he said. “I should add that the re­ces­sion had a dir­ect im­pact on my fam­ily.” In 2009, Sweeney’s moth­er was laid off from her job at an ar­chi­tec­ture firm and now works at Mc­Don­ald’s.

Des­pite his zeal for the farm bill, Sweeney’s route to polit­ics was serendip­it­ous. After gradu­at­ing from Al­bion Col­lege, “I tried des­per­ately to find a job in the non­profit world, but I couldn’t,” he re­called. At one point, Sweeney was ex­plain­ing his situ­ation to a former col­lege pro­fess­or when he was over­heard by Doug Ross, a Demo­crat­ic gubernat­ori­al can­did­ate, who was stand­ing nearby. “[Ross’s] ears perked up, and he hired me on the spot.” Ross was soundly de­feated in the Demo­crat­ic primary, but Sweeney went on to work for a series of cam­paigns be­fore join­ing Stabenow’s first Sen­ate cam­paign in 1999.

What We're Following See More »
AVOIDS SHUTDOWN WITH A FEW HOURS TO SPARE
Trump Signs Border Deal
1 weeks ago
THE LATEST

"President Trump signed a sweeping spending bill Friday afternoon, averting another partial government shutdown. The action came after Trump had declared a national emergency in a move designed to circumvent Congress and build additional barriers at the southern border, where he said the United States faces 'an invasion of our country.'"

Source:
REDIRECTS $8 BILLION
Trump Declares National Emergency
1 weeks ago
THE DETAILS

"President Donald Trump on Friday declared a state of emergency on the southern border and immediately direct $8 billion to construct or repair as many as 234 miles of a border barrier. The move — which is sure to invite vigorous legal challenges from activists and government officials — comes after Trump failed to get the $5.7 billion he was seeking from lawmakers. Instead, Trump agreed to sign a deal that included just $1.375 for border security."

Source:
COULD SOW DIVISION AMONG REPUBLICANS
House Will Condemn Emergency Declaration
1 weeks ago
THE DETAILS

"House Democrats are gearing up to pass a joint resolution disapproving of President Trump’s emergency declaration to build his U.S.-Mexico border wall, a move that will force Senate Republicans to vote on a contentious issue that divides their party. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) said Thursday evening in an interview with The Washington Post that the House would take up the resolution in the coming days or weeks. The measure is expected to easily clear the Democratic-led House, and because it would be privileged, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) would be forced to put the resolution to a vote that he could lose."

Source:
MILITARY CONSTRUCTION, DRUG FORFEITURE FUND
Where Will the Emergency Money Come From?
1 weeks ago
THE DETAILS

"ABC News has learned the president plans to announce on Friday his intention to spend about $8 billion on the border wall with a mix of spending from Congressional appropriations approved Thursday night, executive action and an emergency declaration. A senior White House official familiar with the plan told ABC News that $1.375 billion would come from the spending bill Congress passed Thursday; $600 million would come from the Treasury Department's drug forfeiture fund; $2.5 billion would come from the Pentagon's drug interdiction program; and through an emergency declaration: $3.5 billion from the Pentagon's military construction budget."

Source:
TRUMP SAYS HE WILL SIGN
House Passes Funding Deal
1 weeks ago
THE DETAILS

"The House passed a massive border and budget bill that would avert a shutdown and keep the government funded through the end of September. The Senate passed the measure earlier Thursday. The bill provides $1.375 billion for fences, far short of the $5.7 billion President Trump had demanded to fund steel walls. But the president says he will sign the legislation, and instead seek to fund his border wall by declaring a national emergency."

Source:
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login