Plenty of news to report from the first day of Farm Bill 2013 debates proper, so let's get right into it:
The Veto Awaits
Even before the actual debates got underway in the House, the guy spending his nights in the White House let his thoughts be known regarding the bill. In summary, he doesn't like it, and will veto the bill if it does eventually get passed by the House. The main aspect that President Obama disagrees with is the bill's attempt to drastically cut the food stamp, or SNAP, program. Said a White House spokesperson: "[This] bill makes unacceptable deep cuts in SNAP, which could increase hunger among millions of Americans who are struggling to make ends meet, including families with children and senior citizens." Whether or not this threat of a veto makes a difference in the vote itself remains to be seen.
The Great SNAP Challenge
As part of the mess surrounding the SNAP part of the Farm Bill, 26 Democrats decided to "live by example" by promising to survive on a grocery budget of only $4.50 per day, the current rate those receiving SNAP receive through government assistance. Will this kind of thing make any difference to the opinions of those on either side of the aisle? Oh, probably not. But it will certainly allow the two-dozen-plus Democrats to state that they "lived the experience" a few extra times during the upcoming debates, a claim that will fall on the deaf ears of the ultra-conservatives in the House.
The "Farm-Only" Farm Bill
Another interesting group of amendments circling its way around the debate are these introduced by Indiana Representative and "tea party" advocate Marlin Stutzman, which propose to separate the entire food stamp argument from the rest of the farm bill. "Most Americans are shocked to learn that about 80 percent of the farm bill's spending goes to Washington's out-of-control food stamp program," explained Stutzman as to why the separation should be made. The problem with this style of thinking, claims the opposition, is that if the two bills are separated, you can pretty much guarantee an even more drastic level of cuts to food stamps.
Let's Just Pass This Thing
Listening to the debates, one of the main refrains by the various representatives on either side of the aisle went along the lines of, "I don't love the bill, but let's just pass it already."
Republican representative from Northern California Doug LaMalfa said, "Is this farm bill perfect? No. But this is a farm bill we need to pass." Rep. Steve Daines, a Republican from Montana, highlighted how the bill would help his local constituents by proclaiming, "we need a farm bill that gives Montana farms relief. It's time to pass the farm bill." Even House Speaker John Boehner said he'd vote for it, even though he doesn't love it.
On the Democrat side of the aisle, Nancy Pelosi said she's a "likely no" when the vote finally comes up, while Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland said the whole bill was "irresponsible," before going on:
No one, on the richest nation on the face of this earth, should go hungry. And that's exactly what this bill would do. Feed the hungry, cloth the naked, give shelter to the homeless. That's not a political policy, that's a moral policy.
To close things up, Rep. Frank Lucas, the House Agriculture Chairman from Oklahoma, urged his colleagues not to make the rest of the debates a mess: "Don't do things that aren't meant to make the bill a better piece of legislation," he closed with. "Be good legislators. Be thoughtful legislators." We'll see if his fellow congressional colleagues take this advice to heart on day two, when the House begins voting on the 103 amendments to the Farm Bill.
That's not a type. 103 proposed amendments.