With agriculture programs set to expire at the end of the month, Rep. Kristi Noem (R-S.D.) expressed frustration with House Republican leaders today over their decision not to consider a committee approved farm bill.
"I am disappointed that they haven't scheduled this for a vote," Noem said after speaking at a rally seeking to draw attention to the issue. "That has been a big disappointment for me."
She has pledged to sign a discharge petition that would force the bill approved by the House Agriculture Committee in July onto the House floor.
"I'll sign it as soon as it's available. ... I think in the next day or two," Noem said.
The farm bill has been a leading issue in the re-election campaign of Noem, a freshman member of the House Agriculture Committee. Her opponent has accused her of not doing enough to move the legislation.
"Now that Congress is back in session, Representative Noem needs to follow through on promises she made during the five-week recess," Democratic candidate Matt Varilek said in a release earlier this week. "She said Washington is a mess. She said she'd help lead the charge on passing a five-year Farm Bill. ... South Dakotans will be watching to see if she keeps her promises. "
House Republican leaders have said they don't intend to bring the committee bill to the floor because there is not enough support for the measure.
"What the leadership has told me is that they are not convinced that they have the votes to pass it," Noem said. "What I have told them is that I don't believe we'll ever truly know if we have the votes until we schedule it and have the vote."
Noem and Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) sent a letter to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) today requesting a meeting to discuss the bill.
The Senate passed a five-year reauthorization in June, and Senate Agriculture Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), who appeared at the rally with Noem, said her colleagues would be unlikely to move a short-term extension of current law, hoping instead to keep pressure on the House.
That strategy might not bear fruit.
Senior House GOP aides say farm programs are not expected to face much disruption even if the programs expire as scheduled on Sept. 30.
And while Democrats see a political advantage in pushing new funding to aid farmers ahead of Election Day, one GOP aide said Republicans also see a political advantage to putting a lid on further spending.
Democratic foes of the House bill complain it would cut too much from the food stamp program. Republican opponents argue that neither the House nor Senate versions cut enough.
"For conservatives like myself, the real concern is that what is now [considered] a farm bill is really not that. It's a food stamp bill," said Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.). "When [President Barack] Obama says that we will cut not a dime from the food stamp program, which has increased 72 percent in spending in three and a half years, you can't be serious."
Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Calif.) said the food stamp title, which he noted makes up 80 percent of the cost of the bill, should be split off.
"The agriculture portion should stand on its own," McClintock said.
Meanwhile, the House is poised to take up a stopgap-spending bill that would keep the government funded through March.
House Appropriations Committee Chairman Harold Rogers (R-Ky.) said he expects the continuing resolution to win House passage Thursday.
"It's a good tight, clean CR," Rogers said. "I think it will pass."
The conservative Club for Growth said Wednesday night that it would score the vote on the CR, calling it "bad policy simply because it extends big spending programs, layers on extra riders, and provides only short-term funding for the government so that politicians can leave Washington and/or avoid politically sensitive events."
House and Senate leaders pledged before the August recess to enact funding through March in order to avoid a politically damaging fight over keeping the government open past the end of the fiscal year, less than five weeks before facing voters.