Issue: H.R. 2642 Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013 (“Farm Bill”). (Sponsor: Rep. Frank D. Lucas (OK-3).) Question: On Agreeing to the House-Senate Conference Report.
Result: Passed in House 251 to 166, 14 not voting. Became Public Law No: 113-79 (signed by the president 2-7-2014). GOP selected vote.
Bill Summary: This nearly $1 trillion authorization measure sets farm policy for the next five years. It also reauthorizes “nutrition” programs, i.e., food stamps, provides rural community assistance, extends “food for peace” and much more.
Analysis: An early version of this legislation passed the House on a close 216–208 vote last July (see Scorecard, 113th Congress, Session 1 — Roll Call 353, 7-11-13). However, the House and Senate could not resolve their differences until further negotiations after the start of the new session (2014).
For all the hoopla over Congress getting something done, this bipartisan “compromise” is merely another victory for continuing massive unconstitutional government. Even Establishment Republican Senator John McCain blasted the bloated measure in a February 3rd floor speech:
“How are we supposed to restore the confidence of the American people with this monstrosity? A few weeks ago we crammed down their throats a $1.1 trillion omnibus appropriations bill loaded with wasteful spending. Tomorrow we will wash the omnibus down with another trillion dollars. The only policy that gets bipartisan traction in Congress is Washington’s desire to hand out taxpayer money like it is candy.”
The Wall Street Journal (1-28-14) called the “Farm Bill” “A Bipartisan Taxpayer Raid.” This bipartisan “victory” demonstrates the unwillingness of the GOP-led House to deal seriously with unconstitutional programs and spending.
President Obama signed the farm bill into law at Michigan State University, the alma mater of Senate Agriculture Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., the lead negotiator on the Senate side. At the signing ceremony, the president proudly touted the many ongoing unconstitutional overreach programs in this massive piece of legislation.
As Obama pointed out, the measure addresses much more than just farming. The president described it as:
“A jobs bill, an innovation bill, an infrastructure bill, a conservation bill, a research bill. It’s like a Swiss Army knife.
“This bill helps rural communities by investing in hospitals and schools, affordable housing, broadband infrastructure – all the things that help attract more businesses and make life easier for working families. This bill helps support businesses that are developing cutting-edge bio-fuels like some of the work that’s being done here at Michigan State.” — Michigan Radio (2-8-14)
Also present at the signing ceremony was U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, who praised Congress for keeping cuts to food stamps smaller than they might have been.
Nevertheless, many liberal Democrats in both the House and Senate postured as opponents to the measure because of the promised cuts in food stamp spending — really just “projected” savings over a 10 year period. Fellow Democrat Stabenow defended the compromise against liberal criticism:
“We have done nothing that changes eligibility or eliminates anyone from food assistance help. We have gone after waste, fraud and abuse and we are tightening up this connection with [the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program.]” — Roll Call (1-27-14) “Farm Bill Is Latest Breakthrough for Congress”
Associated press was surprisingly candid in its assessment of the measure:
“After more than two years of partisan squabbles over food and farm policy, the House passed and sent to the Senate Wednesday an almost $100 billion-a-year, compromise farm bill containing a small cut in food stamps and preserving most crop subsidies….
“For those seeking reform of farm programs, the legislation would eliminate a $4.5 billion-a-year farm subsidy called direct payments, which are paid to farmers whether they farm or not. But the bill nonetheless would continue to heavily subsidize major crops — corn, soybeans, wheat, rice and cotton — while shifting many of those subsidies toward more politically defensible [but still unconstitutional] insurance programs.” — AP (1-29-14) “House passes farm bill, crop subsidies preserved”
Both House Republican and Democratic leaders supported the conference report. However, there were significant defections on both sides of the aisle. According to Roll Call (1-29-14):
“The bill would not have been able to pass without Democratic support, with 63 Republicans voting no. Democrats were split nearly in half, with many opposing any cuts to the food stamp program.”
Rather than give credit to liberals who voted correctly but for clearly the wrong reason we choose not to score the Democrats in either the House or Senate on this important measure.
We have assigned (good vote) to the Nays and (bad vote) to the Yeas. (P = voted present; ? = not voting; blank = not listed on roll call.)