Agriculture Chairman Frank Lucas and ranking member Rep. Collin Peterson are optimistic that the farm bill will easily pass the committee.
Without even a committee markup, the House farm bill has caused intraparty tensions to flare up among both Democrats and Republicans, who are primarily squabbling over how much money should be allotted for food stamps.
So it is no small wonder that House leaders have been reticent to bring the bill to the floor. Nonetheless, all eyes are on what could be a marathon Agriculture Committee markup today to determine the way forward.
Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) and the panel’s ranking member, Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) — the two Members who negotiated the bill — expressed optimism that the legislation would easily pass the committee.
“I think we’re fine. I think we’ve got plenty of votes in the committee,” Peterson said. “The bigger problem is going to be, first of all, getting it onto the floor, getting leadership to give us time. And even then it’s going to be tough. The left won’t be satisfied, the right won’t be satisfied and there aren’t that many people in the middle anymore.”
Indeed, a House GOP leadership aide said that even a drama-free markup would not guarantee floor consideration. And this one promises to be anything but drama-free.
Committee members on both sides of the aisle said they plan to offer amendments in committee, many dealing with the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the formal name for food stamps.
Lucas said his pitch to GOP Members is to save these kinds of amendments for the House floor.
“If you want to dramatically reshape entire programs, if you want to do things of [an] unimaginable bold nature, that’s probably floor work,” he said.
But, of course, there is a chance the bill never gets there. In that case, Lucas and Peterson said they are considering bypassing floor consideration and going straight to a conference with the Senate, which already passed a farm bill along bipartisan lines.
Peterson, however, noted that it is unlikely Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) would allow that. A GOP leadership aide confirmed that House leaders are not considering that option right now. Worth noting is that GOP leaders did resort to a similar course on the transportation reauthorization bill.
Another option would be to pass a short-term extension of the current farm bill and consider a long-term solution next year.
Rep. Tim Huelskamp, who is a member of both the Agriculture and Budget committees, said he will offer an amendment in committee that would add to the $16.5 billion in cuts to SNAP in the Lucas-Peterson bill.
That would match the more than $30 billion cut from the program in the House budget reconciliation package.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.