Senate Agriculture ranking member Pat Roberts and Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow admitted in a press conference today that navigating the farm bill through the amendment jungle on the Senate floor will not be easy.
Roberts said that he and Stabenow hope to finish major work on the bill by June 14, but Stabenow told reporters earlier this week she thought the process might take two to three weeks and leadership aides have estimated a week and a half of floor time, pass or fail.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said earlier this week he is willing to have an open amendment process on the bill as long as amendments fall within the purview of the legislation. The big question now is whether Republicans will demand amendment votes on proposals such as McCain’s, which are not directly relevant to farm or nutrition issues.
Roberts said Republican Senators had a “robust discussion” of the McCain sequester measure. If the GOP decides to push forward with that offering, or others on even more politically charged topics, it will throw off not only the desired timeline for wrapping work on the bill but also the chances the bill will be completed at all.
“It’s important to get this done,” Stabenow said. “At some point, if people are just trying to stop us, we have to go through all the procedural motions. But we want to work with everybody and do our level best to make sure that we can address people’s concerns.”
Correction: June 6, 2012
An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the vote tally for passing the five-year authorization bill out of committee. The vote was 16-5.