Senate negotiators stuck a massive amendment deal on the pending farm bill tonight, working through contentious battles on the floor, in the cloakroom and in Capitol corridors to inch closer to potential passage.
Although final Senate approval is far from guaranteed, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) announced a 73-amendment agreement just before 8:30 p.m., hours after Senate Agriculture Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and ranking member Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) could be seen and heard wrangling with rank-and-file Members in the chamber.
The amendment package, which was agreed to by unanimous consent, includes measures both germane and nongermane to the bill. But it wasn’t secured easily.
Stabenow and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) exchanged words on the floor, with Sanders getting red in the face and at one point brushing away Stabenow’s hand within full view of the gallery. The two then took their conversation into the cloakroom, where one source said their exchange was even more heated.
Multiple sources indicated it was amendment-related and a Sanders measure on genetically engineered food was included near the end of the list of announced provisions.
While Stabenow was working Sanders, Roberts was across the chamber talking to several Republicans trying to resolve their outstanding issues. As the two bill managers worked the floor old-school Senate style, Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) was delivering a speech on the DREAM Act, looking back at Stabenow and Sanders at one point in his remarks because their conversation had gotten so loud.
“Bernie appreciates the leadership of Senator Stabenow on the farm bill. He also believes it is important to recognize that the overwhelming majority of Americans support labeling genetically modified foods,” a Sanders spokesman said in a statement. “He is pleased that there will be a vote on his amendment to let states require straightforward labeling.”
Republicans have long claimed that the $969 billion farm bill extension, required of Congress every five years, would pass if Reid allowed for an open amendment process. This week, they will get the chance to back their words with actions on what Stabenow called on the floor late Monday a “path to final passage” and Reid dubbed a good but not great deal.
The Senate will begin voting on the amendments Tuesday afternoon, with the measures that are relevant to the bill receiving a simple majority approval and nonrelevant provisions subject to a 60-vote bar.