If you’ve been in Washington any amount of time, you know that this isn’t the easiest place to get things done. Heck, watch 10 minutes of a major news network and you can clearly see that.
Our forefathers set our government up that way, but the level of gridlock these days is astounding and frustrating.
That’s why it’s refreshing to see things actually getting done in Congress this year. Recently, the U.S. Senate passed the 2018 farm bill. Not only did it just pass the Senate, it passed with the largest Yes votes in the history of farm bills. That vote was 86 to 11.
Count on agriculture to bring progress back to Washington!
For a while on the Senate floor, it looked like the bill was in trouble. Several hours went by without much happening publicly, but I have no doubt that behind the scenes, deals were being made to get the bill passed.
There is nothing like an imminent week-long recess to get senators to get down to business and agree to vote. It is a midterm election year, and there are a lot of senators from farm states that are up for re-election. In fact, more than half of the Democrats on the Senate Agriculture Committee are up for re-election this year. Lawmakers want to be back home campaigning and defending their seat, and I don’t blame them. If 2016 showed us anything, it is that no election is certain, and political polls are useless.
After the farm bill passed the Senate Agriculture Committee on a 20 to 1 vote and the full Senate began its consideration, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said, “The reason it has reached the floor in its current form, ready for consideration, amendments and ultimately passage by the full Senate, is the leadership of Chairman (Pat) Roberts and Ranking Member (Debbie) Stabenow. They’ve carried on the committee’s proud tradition of focusing on substance and putting partisanship aside.”
McConnell also serves on the Agriculture Committee and was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 1984, so he knows a thing or two about “how things used to work around here.” Though it may sound like a lot of patting each other on the back, his comments are high praise in a town that is in constant gridlock.
On the day the Senate voted on the farm bill, McConnell said, “The Chairman (Roberts) and Ranking Member (Stabenow) assembled it through an exemplary, bipartisan committee process that included 73 amendments. Here on the floor, 18 more bipartisan amendments were adopted in the substitute amendment. It was my personal hope that we could’ve had even more amendment votes. But the Senate is a consent-based institution, and members have the ability to object. Nevertheless, the transparent and open leadership of Chairman Roberts and Ranking Member Stabenow has been commendable.”
That’s nice, but what’s next? The House and Senate will pick members of a conference committee that will reconcile the differences between the two bills. That will be one to watch.
Editor’s note: Seymour Klierly writes Washington Whispers for the Journal from inside the Beltway.