The chairman of the House Agriculture Committee reiterated Thursday that it would be correct to say he doesn't want to see a one-month extension of existing farm programs, but he stopped well short of saying House and Senate conferees had an agreement.
"I think it's fair to say in a number of areas we are moving towards consensus. I'm not comfortable enough yet just to say what those consensus points are," Rep. Frank D. Lucas, R-Okla., told reporters.
Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, said earlier in the day that he had "not seen any real progress," and the House would be prepared to move forward with a one-month stopgap farm bill.
Lucas signaled that some proposals on the table to resolve differences in farm titles may need additional scoring by the Congressional Budget Office.
"Remember, Sen. Stabenow has said a number of times in a row, 'Nothing's ever done until all the parts are in place and everything's complete.' Maybe Sen. Stabenow has it right," Lucas said. "It would still be my hope that we can get our work done in time to not require an extension."
Lucas said that having a conference agreement in place by the end of the year would help policymakers avoid the need for an extension. The Agriculture Department has signaled likewise.
"Now, whether that means getting it done on Dec. 13? That's a Herculean lift, but if the members know with certainty, if the U.S. Department of Agriculture knows with certainty that a finished product will be on the floor the first few days in January, I think that probably would reassure everyone involved."
On the House floor, Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., said the House would be ready to consider "legislation pertaining to farm programs, including potentially a full farm bill conference report," if it becomes available.
Asked if he would brief Boehner on the state of negotiations, Lucas said the negotiations weren't quite ripe for that, though staff has been in regular communication.
"I think on a staff-to-staff basis, information that's been appropriate [has] been passed along, and I'm not sure we really are far enough along for a big discussion of that nature — yet," Lucas said.