Morning Action: Farm Bill, Immigration Debates Continue

IMMIGRATION.  In the weeks ahead, a myriad of different special interest groups will influence the Senate debate on the Gang of Eight amnesty bill:

Proponents of the bill, however, say the measures already in the bill reflect the need to fix many parts of a broken immigration system Congress last overhauled in 1986.

“This bill is the best chance for a lot of people to have a lot of their specific issues addressed,” said Bob Sakaniwa,of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, a group advocating for the overhaul. “There’s been this pent-up demand.”

Even before the immigration debate began on the Senate floor last week, the overhaul included provisions long the focus of intense lobbying by an array of interests groups. For instance, the technology industry lobbied successfully to secure more visas for foreign engineers, programmers and other high-skilled workers, while the bill sets aside 10,500 visas each year for Irish immigrants.

More changes are expected during the weeks of debate ahead.

 FARM BILL. The House begins debate on the five-year food stamp and farm bill Tuesday.  Powerful lobbyist groups like the corn and soybean lobbies will seek to maintain the status quo.  Large, wealthy farmers are used to getting Depression-era subsidies, and that’s how they want to keep it:

In a letter last Thursday to House members, the two lobbies boasted that as much as $10 billion could be saved by effectively gutting the proposed price-loss program. Toward this end, they are backing a floor amendment filed Friday by Reps. Bob Gibbs (R-Ohio) and Ron Kind (D-Wis.) that changes how the target prices are set and what acreage will be used to calculate payments if markets collapse.

Left out of the corn and beans letter is any mention of the fact that the same two commodities stand to gain richly from a far more expensive “shallow-loss” subsidy program in the Senate bill. With much of agriculture holding hands just to get across the House floor, the hardball tactics are risky.

Floor amendments must be filed by Monday afternoon with the House Rules Committee, which will meet Monday and Tuesday to deal with the giant 629-page bill. Monday’s meeting is to lay the groundwork for general debate the next day. Tuesday will dictate the amendment process and what promises to be a series of knockdown fights Wednesday and Thursday.

BUDGET.  The House and the Senate have not yet gone to conference on their budget deals, which some House Republicans apparently view as advantageous because avoiding the topic has helped keep disagreements over spending at bay:

Some members see this as an opportunity to make a deal that makes permanent real budget cuts. There’s a contingent that either doesn’t want to make a deal with Senate Democrats or would prefer to wait until the debt ceiling is closer and they presumably have more leverage. And some would just toss the House-passed plan and start over.

Republicans agree on the talking points: The Senate budget doesn’t come into balance in 10 years; it doesn’t address out of control spending; and the chasm between the two proposals is too great to bridge.

DEBT. The Heritage Foundation has 17 reasons the $17 trillion debt is still a big deal, contrary to what some in Washington have stated:

Remember the debt? That $17 trillion problem? Some in Washington seem to think it’s gone away.

The Washington Post reported that “the national debt is no longer growing out of control.” Lawmakers and liberal inside-the-Beltway organizations are floating the notion that it’s not a high priority any more.

We beg to differ, so we came up with 17 reasons that $17 trillion in debt is still a big, bad deal.

The whole list can be viewed here.


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