Morning Action: Senate Draws Close to Passing $1 Trillion Food Stamp and Farm Bill

FARM BILL. The Senate is drawing closer to passing the highly flawed $1 trillion food stamp and farm bill (sub. req’d):

The chamber resumes consideration of the conference report to a five-year farm bill (HR 2642). Meets at 2 p.m. with a vote on a motion to limit debate at 5:30 p.m.

Supporters of a farm bill conference agreement expect a strong show of bipartisan support on a Senate procedural vote this afternoon that would set up a roll call to clear the package Tuesday afternoon.

The wide-ranging compromise (HR 2642) would set policy for agriculture, dairy, conservation, nutrition and other areas. The Congressional Budget Office estimates it will cost $956 billion and produce $16.6 billion in budget savings over a decade, though advocates say the savings really total $23 billion when sequestration cuts to the baseline are considered.

The votes would mark the end of multiple attempts to renew farm and nutrition programs. Agriculture lawmakers in both chambers first attempted to cut a deal in the fall of 2011 for a budget “super committee” package that never materialized. In 2012, the Senate passed a five-year farm bill but House leaders did not allow a vote on a House committee-passed measure.

We’ll be watching for any last-minute procedural roadblocks that could materialize. Because the senators can’t amend a conference agreement, the betting is a majority already weary of battles over farm policies will eagerly endorse the pact.

KEYSTONE.  The Keystone pipeline has support from myriad groups and from both political parties.  Many are seeking President Obama’s approval of the project (sub. req’d):

Pressure is intensifying on Obama to sign off on the Keystone XL pipeline following a State Department finding that the project would not substantially worsen global warming.

Labor groups and the oil industry, as well as lawmakers from both sides of the aisle, support the effort, saying it will create jobs and reduce the United States’ reliance on oil from the Middle East. The pipeline to ship oil from Western Canada would also allow shipments from North Dakota’s booming Bakken oil fields.

Environmentalists contend the oil industry influenced the State Department’s years-long review of potential environmental impact. Project opponents say increasing production of the heavy tar sands oil — which requires more energy than conventional oil to extract, transport and refine — would dramatically increase carbon pollution. They say the pipeline would provide oil companies with an incentive to develop the tar sands.

The Heritage Foundation notes:

Friday’s report form the State Department doesn’t clear the pipeline for completion. That decision is still up to the Obama Administration. But Senate Democrats from energy-producing states are putting pressure on the President. Advancing energy here at home brings security, jobs, and, well—energy. And with each new report that emphasizes the pipeline’s environmental safety, the Administration looks worse for robbing Americans of these benefits.

HEALTHCARE.  The Heritage Foundation explains America wants real health care reform, a sentiment also articulated by Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) 40%Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK), and Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) 33%.  Last year, these three senators introduced the Patient-Choice, Affordability, Responsibility, and Empowerment (CARE) Act, which Heritage calls “another voice in a growing chorus of Obamacare alternatives”:

So-called opponents of Obamacare are not opponents of health reform. As a matter of fact, the need for reform – including curbing costs, improving quality, and reducing the number of uninsured — is something most all can generally agree on. The difference is in the approach to solve those problems.

Obamacare attempts to solve the cost and quality by controlling the financing and micromanaging the delivery of medicine, while solving the uninsured problem by forcing people to buy government-approved health insurance (that in many cases they can’t afford) or be taxed for not complying.

In sharp contrast, opponents of Obamcare solve the problems of cost and quality by allowing the market to respond to consumer demand, while understanding that competition will lead to better products and services at lower prices and will enable more people to buy the coverage and services that best fit their needs.


This Week in Congress: February 3 — 7


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