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Congress Seeks Action on Stopgap

Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call
Senate Agriculture Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow is hoping to pass a five-year agriculture program authorization before the end of the month. Some farming interests have indicated that in the absence of a long-term bill, a short-term extension would be acceptable.

With lawmakers eager to get back on the campaign trail, Congress will seek to make quick work of a six-month stopgap spending bill, which could be the vehicle for an extension of federal farm programs set to expire at the end of the month.

The House is on track to clear the continuing resolution this week, with the Senate expected to follow suit next week, according to House and Senate aides from both parties.

The House could unveil the measure as soon as Monday and vote on it by Thursday.

"There is a desire to move quickly," said a Senate GOP aide familiar with discussions on the CR.

The fiscal year expires Sept. 30, and House and Senate leaders have pledged to pass the CR to keep the government funded through March. This measure would allow Congressional leaders to avoid a politically self-destructive fight over funding the federal government before the November elections.

Senate passage of the bill is more likely to come after Rosh Hashanah, which begins the evening of Sept. 16 and lasts through the evening of Sept. 18, the Senate GOP aide said.

The measure is expected to be a narrowly focused document and will not include extraneous provisions that could threaten its passage, aides said.

Congressional leaders could include an extension of agriculture programs, which also expire at the end of the month.

A farm bill extension "is the most realistic option" for any unrelated provisions in the CR, a Senate GOP aide said.

The Senate passed its five-year agricultural program authorization in June, but House GOP leaders have yet to consider a committee-approved measure over concerns that GOP leaders may not have the votes to pass the bill. Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has been grappling with partisan disagreements about how much to cut from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as food stamps.

If an extension is added to the CR, it is unclear whether it would be backed by Senate Agriculture Chairman Debbie Stabenow (D- Mich.), who has led the charge to ensure that her comprehensive five-year bill is passed.

Stabenow is expected to attend a Wednesday rally with farming interests who want to keep the pressure on lawmakers to pass either a bill or a short-term extension before the end of the month.

"The thinking behind why we need to have a rally is 'Hey, agriculture is showing [Congress] we are going to stand up and be counted' ... and in an ideal situation, we get our farm bill done" before the end of the month, said Dale Moore, deputy executive director for public policy at the American Farm Bureau Federation.

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