Morning Action: Will a Costly, Unreformed Farm Bill Cross the Finish Line?

FARM BILL.  The House may consider the farm bill conference report on the floor Wednesday; farm bill negotiators from the two champers have apparently reached agreements on almost every issue, not including the issue of mandatory country-of-origin labeling for meat.  Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND) 40% became influential in helping push the farm bill forward (sub. req’d):

While some Senate conferees complain of being shut out of the process, Hoeven often provides accurate state-of-play information. Last year, Hoeven helped run interference with GOP lawmakers when it appeared they might object to a unanimous consent request on naming Senate farm bill conferees.

Hoeven is also unfailingly supportive of Senate Agriculture Chairwoman Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) 5% and ranking Republican Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS) 30% of Mississippi.

“It almost, sometimes, feels like he is the fifth person in the gang of four,” said Ferd Hoefner, policy director for the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.

The Heritage Foundation has explained how the farm bill is flawed and noted that some lawmakers are trying to undo even minor reforms:

When it comes to the farm portion of the farm bill, there is more bad news. Both the House and Senate agreed to cap the total payments received under commodity programs to $250,000 per farm, which is still overly generous. There have been reports that some farm bill negotiators are seeking to take the extreme step of removing even this minor reform—which was included in both bills.

SCHOOL CHOICE.  National School Choice Week starts today, and as the Heritage Foundation notes, “School choice doesn’t look the same for everyone, because learning doesn’t look the same for everyone.”

FLOOD INSURANCE.  The Senate is expected to vote on the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act (S.1926), which would delay the implementation of a 2012 reform that required the phase out of subsidies on flood insurance premiums so that policyholders would eventually begin paying actuarially sound rates.

DOCTORS.  Nevada is experiencing an acute deficit of doctors, a problem that is expected to get worse under Obamacare.  There were 198 physicians per 100 thousand residents in 2010, farm below the U.S. average of 272 doctors, according to the latest annual report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

As a result of the state exchange and Medicaid expansion, hundreds of thousands of uninsured Nevadans are now eligible for insurance. The influx of new patients is expected to further strain health care delivery systems in a state that has long suffered from doctor shortages.

OBAMACARE.  Republicans will unveil a conservative alternative to Obamacare Monday in the Senate, Bill Kristol told Bob Schieffer on CBS’s Face the Nation.  The Senators will include Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK)Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) 33%, and Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) 40%.

AMNESTY.  House Republicans will likely unveil their plan to overhaul the country’s immigration system this week:

The House document is expected to call for border security and enforcement measures, as well as providing a path to legal status but not citizenship, congressional aides said.

There appears to be a consensus forming around a package of bills — including ones on border security, a crackdown on the hiring of undocumented workers, expanded guest-worker programs and a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants brought to the country as children, according to The Times.

Critics of a possible House-Senate deal fear they will be left out of final talks involving so-called congressional “conferees.” They also worry that veteran negotiators such as Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., who helped craft the upper chamber bill, could behind closed doors make the final bill more like the Senate version.


This Week in Congress: January 27 — 31

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