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As farm bill falters the fat lady sings a dirge

As farm bill falters the fat lady sings a dirge

Forgive the rant but reports say that House leadership is canceling the chamber’s October work session. If that stands, it means lawmakers will work in D.C. a grand total of eight days sandwiched between recesses. You read that right: the House will have been in session eight days from August 4 through mid-November.

That is an outrage.

It is especially an outrage in the face of a moribund economy, the worst drought in decades and a stagnant farm bill. Make your own list of priorities the House should take up and, whether you straddle the aisle or prefer a side, that list has no chance.

Many of the pols will bellyache from campaign podiums about the laziness of welfare queens, food stamp recipients, entitlement programs and whatever other hot-buttons they can repeatedly pound during speeches. And then -- asking for votes while nodding to farm country values, the soul-affirming benefits of hard work and finishing chores -- they will deposit their own taxpayer-provided checks without feeling enough shame to keep from looking the bank teller in the eye.

Related: What happens if Congress fails to act on House farm bill?

They will do this hoping we ignore their legislating for a scant eight days (eight days!) in 14 weeks while the country reels from myriad problems.

There are many reasons approval numbers for Congress have been swirling around the toilet for years. But considering how they’ve handled the farm bill, House Leader John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor, are some real villains for the agriculture sector to point at.

How intransigent and partisan is this duo? After they’d played footsie with the House Agriculture Committee-approved farm bill (that would save $35 billion with $16 billion coming from nutrition programs) for weeks prior to the August recess, fellow lawmakers finally figured out –- way too late, of course -– that Boehner and Cantor weren’t going to do anything but tease them like a prom date. Smiles and winks meant nothing, even to members of their party: second base wasn’t even a possibility, much less a run scored.

Those who held out hope the pitiful pair would see the light over the August recess and come back ready to pass a farm bill were quickly set right. No amount of complaining from rural constituents during recess meetings was going to move the needle. Simply put, if Boehner and Cantor have their way, there will be no new farm bill before the November elections.

So, desperation setting in –- especially for farm-state lawmakers up for reelection –- last week saw an attempt to force House leadership’s hand and provide a vote on the farm bill passed out of committee 35-11. The long-shot comes in the form of a “discharge petition” that would trigger a farm bill vote if a majority of the House, 218 members, signs on.

As of Monday (September 17) afternoon, some 50 lawmakers had signed the petition. Those from the Mid-South included Tennessee Rep. Jim Cooper, Missouri Rep. Jo Ann Emerson, and Arkansas Rep. Rick Crawford.

See the full list here.

Only 150-plus signatures to go…

TAGS: Legislative
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