Farm Bill faces uphill battle on the Hill
Though it has made its way to the Senate chamber on Capitol Hill, the Farm Bill still faces an uphill battle, thanks largely to political machinations and infighting over amendments.
Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Sen. Debbie Stabenow and ranking member Sen. Pat Roberts reiterated Tuesday their plan to complete a comprehensive bill, but that’s looking more and more dubious, according to Roll Call’s Meredith Shiner.
While the $969 billion vessel for a farm bill that would reform the nation’s crop insurance and food stamps programs as well as eliminate direct subsidies to farmers has not yet sunk, it is being punctured from all sides by nongermane political amendments, regional battles and GOP Senators who do not want to take another vote on a bill doomed to fail in the House.
Legislative wrangling is nothing new and, as Shiner says, there will only be more of it should the House take up Farm Bill work. Still, the Farm Bill is very, very important, both to farmers and to food consumers. (For more details, take a look at this piece by NPR’s Scott Neuman.)
Senate leadership often uses a diagram that limits the number of possible amendments to a bill, known as an amendment tree, to control the process. At this point, the amendment tree is getting full. That may speed progress by cutting out non-related offerings, or it may convolute the process as senators object to limits of their power. Here's what Shiner says:
In many ways, however, just how far the bill can go depends on how strongly Republicans insist on including amendments that fall outside the purview of the farm bill, such as an amendment from Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) regarding defense spending cuts or a measure from Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) on cutting off aid to Pakistan. Paul blocked Reid from moving on a broader amendment deal today.
And while both parties spar on procedure, it’s unclear how committed either side is to ensuring that relevant amendments are offered and considered and the bill approved.
Ultimately, no one – not even Senate leaders – knows just how the Farm Bill process will shake out.