Morning Action: House Lawmakers Rushing to Pass Trillion-Dollar Food Stamp and Farm Bill

FARM BILL. The House will take up the so-called farm bill next week.  We have explained that food stamps – which comprise 80 percent of the spending in the bill — and farm policy must be separated for real reform to happen.  Unfortunately, this trillion-dollar boondoggle doesn’t do that:

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., said Thursday he believes that the farm bill will come up on the House floor next week and be finished in two days—assuming the whip count shows that he and ranking member Collin Peterson, D-Minn., are close to the 218 votes they need for final passage.

In a further indication that the farm bill is moving forward, theHouse Rules Committee sent out a letter to members Thursday saying the deadline for amendments on the farm bill is Monday at 2 p.m.

Lucas said he has already met with the Rules Committee and asked that it adopt a rule providing for “open discussion” on all issues that members want to bring up, but with only one or two amendments allowed per subject. 

Lucas said he is optimistic about getting the votes because members understand that if a new farm bill is not passed, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, better known as SNAP or food stamps, is permanently authorized and would continue while farm programs will expire and outdated laws from the 1930s and ’40s will take effect.

The food stamp program is plagued with fraud and abuse.  Not to mention, food stamp participation is at record highsReal reform to the food stamp program is impossible as long as the food stamps and the farm bill are connected.   As for “outdated laws,” Drew White has explained that if we don’t want to revert to “permanent law,” it should be repealed; the real solution is not to vote in favor of a trillion-dollar, five-year farm bill that is in desperate need of reform Heritage notes that Rep. Marlin Stutzman (R-IN) says the farm bill is “insulting” to Americans and taxpayers.

HASTERT RULE. A group of Republican lawmakers is working to codify the “Hastert rule” that would only allow bills with the support of the majority of the majority to come to the floor (sub. req’d):

It’s not likely the full Republican Conference would back a formal rule, which would tie the hands of Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio as he tries to get immigration legislation and debt and budget deals through the House later this year.

But with an immigration rewrite looming and Boehner unwilling to guarantee that he’ll follow the Hastert rule, some of the more conservative House Republicans are nervous a compromise will be brought to the floor that falls short of their priorities — such as provisions to guarantee border security — and includes components many dislike, including a pathway to citizenship that some blast as a form of “amnesty.”

“Normally, the Hastert Rule is not that critical of a thing, but in this case, with something so important as immigration, it’s important that you have the people’s will reflected,” Rep. John Fleming, R-La., said. “And the Hastert rule would do a greater job to achieve that.”

Rep. Matt Salmon, R-Ariz., is helping to lead the effort, circulating a petition among GOP lawmakers.

The Conservative Action Project, which includes Heritage Action, called on the House to codify the Hastert rule as “a backstop against the excesses of liberalism and Washington deal-making.”

STUDENT LOANS.  Student loan interest rates continue to be a contentious issue between lawmakers in Congress and the White House (sub. req’d):

Senate Democrats have a problem in trying to pass a two-year extension of current law on student loan rates.

The Obama administration issued a proposal as part of its 2014 budget request that would change current law and is closer to a plan from Senate Republicans than one from Democrats.

The result? A legislative mess, teetering toward a July 1 deadline when subsidized Stafford loan rates will double.

Of course, a solution might be closer if everyone engaging in the debate it were honest and transparent about their positions and motivations. This being Washington, they’re not, and thus another manufactured crisis appears to have been born. 

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