Boehner Tells Senate to 'Get Serious' About Farm Bill, Budget Talks

Boehner expressed frustration Tuesday about progress on both a farm bill and a budget conference. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

If Speaker John A. Boehner's comments are any signal, talks between the House and Senate to craft a farm bill and budget are in trouble with less than two weeks left in the legislative session.

"We can't defend the Democrats to the point of saying 'yes,'" Boehner said Tuesday morning.

"It is time for the other chamber to get serious about getting this work done," the Ohio Republican added.

Boehner argued that House Agriculture Chairman Frank D. Lucas, R-Okla., had made "nothing but a good-faith effort" to reach consensus with Senate Democrats in a farm bill conference. And yet, with less than two legislative weeks left in this year's session, a farm bill agreement doesn't appear near.

"We have the same problem when it comes to the budget conference," he said.

Boehner said that House Budget Chairman Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., had done "a very good job of outlining very serious offers, but we can't get Senate Democrats to say 'yes.'"

Senate Budget Chairwoman Patty Murray, D-Wash., and other Senate Democrats have made it clear throughout the budget conference that entirely replacing the sequester with entitlement cuts is not palatable to them, just as House Republicans have made it clear that replacing the sequester with tax increases is not palatable to them.

Instead, budget negotiators look to be focusing on a limited deal that would offset, for now, about two years of the sequester with a combination of spending cuts in mandatory programs, user fees and other non-tax revenue.

But with limited time left and plenty of issues yet to be worked out, a final budget — like a final farm bill that could reconcile the roughly $36 billion difference in cuts to food stamps between the two chambers — will be difficult to reach.