If you spent any time Tuesday or Wednesday watching or listening to the C-SPAN broadcast of the House debates over the Farm Bill, which I was able to stand for a good few hours before wanting to stick an ice pick through my eyes, you essentially saw a lot of this:
Congressperson: "I have this amendment I'd like to present, and here is a quick one-minute summary of what it is."
Frank Lucas, the House Agricultural Committee Chairman: "I object. I think you're doing a great job here, but it's not going to fit in the bill."
House Clerk: "Ayes and nays time, everyone. [pauses for a second] Nays have it."
And off the Congressperson would go, shrugging, back to their seat in a clump of sadness. When you have to get through 103 amendments in only a day-plus, there's not really a lot of time to waste. But among the more interesting amendment decisions from the second and third days of the debate:
- An attempt by the Democrats to get rid of the $2 billion in cuts to the food stamp program and, instead, take that money out of farming subsidies. In the Republican-controlled House this, obviously, was voted down.
- A bipartisan bill that will allow the growing of industrial hemp in colleges and universities for academic purposes was passed, and literature professors everywhere rejoiced.
- An overhaul on the dairy program that would raise the price of milk in order to ... well, I'm not entirely sure. But it was voted down, so thankfully I don't have to learn it.
- An option to allow states to adopt their own work requirements before their citizens are allowed to receive food stamps passed, to a whole lot of heated booing in the chamber.
- In the past, the actual money that was spent from various farm bills well surpassed what was originally allocated for it. So, an amendment capping the spending of the bill at 110% of the proposed amount passed pretty enthusiastically.
What closed up the proceedings was an amendment put forth by Representative Julia Brownley from Ventura that would throw some extra money to firefighters to come up with better ways to battle the annual raging wildfires in California and the rest of the country. It was subsequently voted down. But it gave Frank Lucas some rebuttal time in order to deliver his quasi-closing argument about passing the bill:
I know that everyone does not have exactly what they want in this bill, but I would say this to all of you. Ultimately, this body has to do its work. Whether you believe this bill has too much reform or not enough, or whether it cuts too much or not enough, we have to move this bill. I plead to you, I implore you, put aside the latest email or the latest flyer or whatever comment or rumor you've heard from near or around you. Assess the situation. Look at the bill. Vote with me to move this forward if you care about the producers, the consumers of this country.
Unfortunately for Lucas, Congress is used to blustery rhetoric like that. So when it was time for the bill to finally be voted upon, it was all for naught.
The Farm Bill 2013 was voted down, 195-234.
Party lines were split pretty evenly between Democrats and Republicans -- Democrats being pretty exclusively on the "no" side of the argument -- but more than enough Republicans agreed with them in order to keep the nails unbitten on the C-SPAN viewers at home. Meaning, the next five years of our country's agricultural and food stamp procedure is still in limbo. Stay tuned, as always.