Politics as usual
On the first full day of legislative session for the United State Senate, Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-NV, put a spotlight on the need for a full farm bill. By introducing the previously passed Senate farm bill from 2012, did Senator Reid advance agriculture policy reforms or just kick off another act in the political theater in Washington?
After introducing 10 priority bills for the new session, Senator Reid stated that, "Unfortunately, a number of bipartisan bills passed by the Senate during the last Congress were never acted upon by the House of Representatives. So this year the Senate will also revisit some of the legislative priorities of the 112th Congress. We will take up the Violence Against Women Act, the farm bill, historic reforms to save the United States Postal Service and legislation to make whole the victims of Hurricane Sandy. Each of these initiatives passed the Senate on a bipartisan basis after deliberation and debate during the 112th Congress, but was left to languish by the House of Representatives."
Congratulations to Senator Reid for laying out an aggressive priority list and agenda for the new 113th Congress. However, considering Senator Reid introduced the bipartisan Senate passed bill without asking any Republican's to cosponsor the legislation, his intention is clearly politics as usual. During his floor speech, he went beyond celebrating the Senate's previous good works by immediately throwing attacks. "Bipartisanship" is just another chip in this dealers hand as he acts to make the best moves for his political party.
Instead of working to pass the farm bill, Senator Reid just wants to highlight differences between the Republican House and Democrat Senate. This worked in his favor during the November elections, as Democratic candidates beat Republicans in rural states that voted heavily for Mitt Romney. Senators Heidi Heitkamp, D-ND, and Jon Tester, D-MN, both won their races despite their states' overwhelming support for the Republican Presidential nominee. Heitkamp and Tester each used the House's failure to move a farm bill as key points in their campaigns. Not surprisingly, both are original cosponsors to Reid's farm bill.
Senator Reid did have additional motives to include the farm bill as a priority piece of legislation. The extension of the 2008 farm bill was negotiated solely by Senator Mitch McConnell, R-KY, and Vice President Joe Biden. Senate Agriculture Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-MI, was outraged that she was cut out of the process and that the extension did not include any of the provisions she supported. Introducing the farm bill allowed Senator Reid to appease the chairwoman and elevate her platform for the rest of the year.
In a press release, Chairwoman Stabenow said "she is committed to convening a Committee mark up as soon as possible, to produce an updated version of the Farm Bill, which could then be substituted for Majority Leader Reid's placeholder bill." This demonstrates that the Chairwoman knows that this is not the final farm bill, but just another show bill in a tried and tired drama.
Editor's note: Seymour Klierly writes Washington Whispers for the Journal from inside the Beltway.