What a Week

Well, if you had told me that one of the two major bills we’ve been watching in Washington would have been voted down and one would be looking good for passage I would have totally been backward on which was which. The House version of the Farm Bill failed yesterday on by a 195 to 234 margin.

Once debate on the bill began, and well over 100 amendments were filed, most expected the debate to go well into next week. Late Wednesday, an agreement was reached on what amendments would be taken up and the order. Most knew the vote was going to be very close. Democrats began to solidify against the bill due to a large cut in the SNAP program. Republicans were mostly happy with the bill with several feeling the cuts weren’t high enough in SNAP and some not seeing enough reform in crop subsidies. A handful of last hour debates and votes seemed to seal the deal and sink the bill. Amendments dealing with Sugar, Dairy and “work for foodstamps” swung some Republicans and a number of Democrats away from the bill.

Where do we go from here? That seems to be the trillion dollar question. While not typical, the bill can be brought up again. Would it have the amendments it gained in the past week? Would it start fresh with the Ag Committee’s version? No one knows. Technically, they could take up the Senate version that passed last week. That bill could go to committee and then come to the floor. That bill has much fewer cuts to food stamps. It seems the picture for the future of the Farm Bill will get better next week.


Well after having two screens of C-SPAN going at one time all day, it seems that there may be some movement on the Comprehensive Immigration Reform bill in the Senate. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) scored the bill as reducing the deficit nearly a Trillion dollars over 10 years. That gave the Senate gang of eight room to literally throw money at the issue that had been holding the measure back. Many conservatives wanted the border verifiably secured before any adjustment of status or path to citizenship could occur. Several amendments failed to get the necessary votes to do that or something similar.

During the day Thursday negotiations were taking place that essentially doubled the border patrol, put billions into surveillance and guaranteed the completion of 700 miles of border fencing. The amendment package has become to be known as the “Border Surge” taking a page from the huge push in Iraq that helped quel the Iraqi resistance. The additional staff will essentially mean they could put a border patrol agent every 1000 feet along the border was mentioned once on the floor. Conservatives dropped the demand for a 90 percent catch rate in exchange for all the additional border security measures. The CBO gave them the ability to do that without blowing the budget.

A cloture motion on the Border Surge amendment has been filed which means the amendment will likely come to a vote Monday or Tuesday next week. This may not be the last amendment since nearly 300 have been filed but it will very likely tell the health of the overall bill. Most analysts are saying that the bill will now make it through the Senate and then we will be in a What’s Next mode for that bill.

The House has seemed to be a bit schizophrenic on immigration reform as late. They have their own Gang of Eight (err Seven (one quit)) which is working on a comprehensive measure of its own. Meanwhile the Judiciary Committee has been holding hearings on several bills each having its own program such as guest ag workers. Most that I have seen are saying that the Senate Bill will have a hard time in the House but after the recent developments with the Border Surge amendments,  and CBO score, it may find significantly less resistance as it moves.

More Fun and games to come.