Renewed optimism for a farm bill
By Seymour Klierly
In the days and weeks leading to the November election, there have been several key congressional leaders speaking out and being plain optimistic that a farm bill can be done in 2012. While there is a laundry list of tasks before the House, Senate, and the administration, the farm bill is continually mentioned in the to-do list discussions. While avoiding the fiscal cliff, a combination of automatic cuts to spending called sequestration and expiring tax rates, is the top priority that must be addressed by Congress before Jan. 1, perhaps the farm bill is second.
President Barack Obama appears to have won enough votes to continue for a second term. For at least the next two years, the House will continue to be controlled by Republicans and the Senate by Democrats. With such large issues facing the country and a divided Washington, D.C., signing a new farm bill into law could be the first bipartisan accomplishment after the election.
Before leaving for recess in August and October, the House of Representatives had the opportunity to take a stand-alone vote on the farm bill passed by the House Agriculture Committee. When the House did not, most blamed Eric Cantor, R-VA, for the hold-up. While campaigning for Rep. Raul Labrador, R-ID, Cantor said he "delayed action before the recess because we don't have the votes on the floor." Speaking of the lame duck, he pledged that "'I'm committed to bring the issue to the floor and then to see a way forward so we can get the votes to pass a farm bill."
Fellow House Republican, Rep. Adrian Smith, R-NE, also expects to act on the farm bill. An October news release by Smith said: "When Congress returns to Washington after the election, we have a long list of items to address before the end of the year. One of the biggest priorities, especially for Nebraska producers, will be passing a responsible farm bill to prevent a lapse in policy."
On the opposite side of the Capitol, there is also renewed optimism for progress. During a townhall meeting in central Kansas, Ranking Member of the Senate Agriculture Committee Pat Roberts, R-KS, said, "There's plenty left to be done when Congress returns after Tuesday's presidential election." When asked about the farm bill specifically, he replied, "'We will probably see that voted on right away. We will get a farm bill. We will get it done."
With Obama's successful reelection, lawmakers are more likely to hold a long lame-duck session to avert a national crisis. During negations for a grand bargain to avert the fiscal cliff, the farm bill may have a spot at the table. The optimism stemming from Republicans in both the House and Senate marks a growing movement to address the farm bill as soon as possible. Whether the signals by lawmakers the past few weeks were talking points or an actual shift in the landscape, only the lame-duck session this November and December will show.
Editor's note: Seymour Klierly writes Washington Whispers for the Journal from inside the Beltway.