Morning Action: New Farm Bill Grows Government and Makes Bad Farm Policy More Permanent Than Ever

FARM BILL.  The new farm bill is a disaster.  It creates “permanent Soviet-style federal control of farm policy”:

Not only does today’s farm bill fail to downsize federal involvement in farming, it actually adds a number of more costly market-distorting  crop insurance and target price programs.  Worse, it does so on a permanent basis.

Conservatives understand that we can’t eliminate 75 years of anti-market farm policy overnight, but we need to chart a course in that direction over the next 5-10 years.  Instead, this bill grows government and makes it more permanent than ever before.

This is a teachable moment in the way leadership conducts themselves and the contempt in which they regard conservatism.  I’ll be meeting today with some more “disruptive” candidates, and this farm bill will be my first lesson on the agenda.

The next major question is what will happen in conference (sub. req’d):

Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., promised that the House will go to conference with the Senate after bringing up a separate bill renewing nutrition programs that were stripped from the previous farm bill to make the legislation acceptable to the GOP base.

Yet leaders face the task of ensuring the bill that comes back from conference does not change in such a way that turns off so many Republicans that leaders cannot get a majority of their conference’s support. Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio sidestepped that question Thursday, telling reporters before the vote that “my goal right now is to get the farm bill passed. We’ll get to those issues later.”

NUCLEAR OPTION.  Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) may invoke the “nuclear option,” changing filibuster rules, which currently give Senators unlimited floor time until three-fifths of the Senate votes to invoke cloture and end the debate on presidential nominees.  This raises questions about the future of the filibuster:

But his potential move to invoke the “nuclear option” is raising a bigger and more sweeping question that could have huge consequences for future presidents of both parties: Is this the beginning of the end of the filibuster? If the filibuster goes, the Senate would lose a crucial check on majority rights — and it could start looking very much like the House, where the majority always gets its way.

For years, the filibuster has been increasingly used as a tool to block, delay and frustrate the will of the majority party to push through its agenda. While the filibuster has been changed periodically over the years, senators have never successfully made good on their threat to impose the “nuclear option” — changing Senate cloture rules by 51 votes, rather than 67 — for fear it would hurt them one day when they were back in the minority.

STUDENT LOANS.  The Congressional Budget Office score of the student loan interest rate deal recently struck in the Senate surprised negotiators, which means they’re going back to the drawing board (sub. req’d):

A bipartisan deal struck Wednesday night among a group of Senate negotiators that would reverse a hike on a federal student loan interest rate that went into effect July 1 blew up after the Congressional Budget Office on Thursday scored the proposal as costing $22 billion over 10 years, a figure too high for Republicans to support, according to a Senate aide.

The negotiators spent most of Thursday waiting for the budget office to score the bipartisan measure that would peg the interest rates to the 10-year Treasury bill and include a cap on the front end. The CBO number surprised the negotiators, who had been striving to make the proposal deficit neutral and hadn’t expected any significant hurdles.

“I think we’re in good shape,” Sen. Joe Manchin III, D-W.Va., said earlier Thursday. “We’re just waiting for the number from CBO that’s being prepared and then we’ll be ready to go.”

But the $22 billion price tag, which was mainly due to the front end cap, will send senators back to the drawing board, according to the aide familiar with the talks.

EDUCATION.  Heritage explains the pros and cons of the Student Success Act:

The House will debate the Student Success Act over the next week, which provides a few good first steps toward limiting burdensome federal intervention in education. But in its current form, the proposal has some serious policy limitations.

On the positive side, the bill would eliminate some of the most onerous provisions of No Child Left Behind (NCLB), such as Adequate Yearly Progress, which mandates universal student proficiency; the Highly Qualified Teacher provision, which requires prospective teachers to secure paperwork certification that has little to no relevance to classroom performance; and maintenance-of-effort regulations that require states to spend money to access federal dollars.

On the other hand, the Student Success Act prescribes how school districts are to evaluate teachers and requires them to make personnel decisions that reflect these new regulations. 



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