Will Rural Chickens Come Home To Roost For The GOP Nov. 6?
Iowans are flipping out that Boehner and Cantor refused to even bring the Farm Bill, which has overwhelming bipartisan support, up for a vote before adjourning Congress. Boehner and Cantor decided to gamble that causing pain in rural America would hurt Obama's presidential chances more than it would damage Republican congressional incumbents. They may have miscalculated. [A new poll out this morning, for example, shows Obama with a strong 51-43% lead in Iowa.] Everyone knows it was Cantor bottling up the bill and desperate Republicans, including Latham, are publicly blaming him. Latham claims "Boehner is not the problem... Eric Cantor is the one who controls floor activity.” The farm bill has passed the House Agriculture Committee and has passed the full Senate but has been hanging in limbo ever since and whether you blame Cantor or Boehner or both, voters in farm states-- and farm districts everywhere-- know the problems they're having now are the fault of the GOP leadership. Here's a letter Dick Durbin (D-IL) sent to a farm district newspaper in Illinois, explaining the problem.
Since we can’t make it rain, the single most important thing Congress can do to assist producers impacted by this year’s drought is pass a farm bill. Most farmers will tell you they can survive one bad year, but right now farmers can’t plan for future years. Nearly three months ago the Senate passed a full five-year farm bill with overwhelming bipartisan support. It would reauthorize several expired disaster programs, extend several other programs to assist fruit and vegetable growers and dairy producers and expand crop insurance coverage. The Senate farm bill would also provide farmers with long term certainty in farm policy that will allow to plan out their recovery from this drought while still reducing the deficit by $23 billion. Unfortunately, the House won’t even bring a farm bill measure to the floor for debate. Instead, they offered an extension of a few disaster programs that do little to help Illinois farmers and producers that have struggled through this drought. Nearly 63 percent of the country is experiencing some level of drought. Every county in Illinois has been declared a disaster by USDA.And Democratic candidates have been turning their fire on Republicans who were unable to persuade Boehner and Cantor to act on behalf of farmers. David Gill in one of Illinois' most productive farming areas: "We haven't just had a historic drought in Illinois and across the Midwest, we've had a drought of leadership in Congress. House Republicans have refused to step forward and pass a bi-partisan Farm Bill to help keep our Heartland alive. It's Tea Party politics at its very worst."
And while our first thought during a drought is the impact to crop farmers, these conditions have a serious impact on businesses and economic growth throughout the state.
About 1.5 million Illinois workers are employed in agribusiness industry which contributes more than $8.85 billion to the Illinois’ economy annually. It’s time for the House to take up and pass a farm bill with robust disaster assistance and the long term policy farmers need. If the House can’t write a bill, they should at least call the bipartisan Senate bill for a vote as soon as possible.
Aryanna Strader is opposing Joe Pitts in southeast Pennsylvania's Lancaster and Chester counties. Even if he's sitting on his hands and babbling about abortions and gays, she's talking directly to the regions farming families. "Too often, members of Congress like Joe Pitts talk about having political courage. Well Joe Pitts has been in Washington long enough that he should be able to demonstrate some leadership to get his Republican colleagues to pass the Farm Bill... but he hasn't. As an Iraq War veteran I have seen true courage and it means standing up and taking real action, not just standing at a microphone and giving speeches. The Farm Bill means jobs and economic security in Pennsylvania and Congressman Pitts just sits there waiting for the recess gavel to come down."
Another Blue America-endorsed progressive, Nate Shinagawa, is seeking to represent one of New York State's most productive farming areas, the Finger Lakes and Southern Tier. He held a press conference to distance himself from Rep. Tom Reed's blasé attitude about the GOP blocking the bill and the resultant hardship for area farmers. “Congressman Tom Reed and the Republicans seem to neglect the fact that Congress has significant responsibility, whether it’s with the livelihood of our farmers or promoting job growth, and as the party in power, should be taking immediate steps to compromise on a full 5-year renewal.” Shinagawa noted the importance of a 5-year renewal after conversations with local farmers, saying it was critical to be able to “plan accordingly to develop a business plan. They need the long term stability to remain profitable.” He supports the Senate version of the bill, which has passed with bi-partisan support, because it “sustains critical subsidies for farmers, and also limits cuts to food stamp programs used by 1 in 7 Americans.”
In North Dakota, Democrat Heidi Heitkamp has deftly turned the issue against Republican freshman Rick Berg, who's running against her for an open Senate seat. Heitkamp called the lack of a new farm bill the “biggest failure of this Congress" and Berg has cravenly blamed his cronies in the Republican leadership. "We have a stonewall problem. I’ll agree. The House Republican leadership is a problem on the farm bill."
Yesterday the Des Moines Register tore into Boehner while he was in Iowa campaigning for Romney, Latham, Steve King and other Republicans.
Boehner, of Ohio, didn’t respond to questions about federal farm provisions that expired this month after lawmakers failed to reach agreement on a new farm bill before leaving the capital ahead of the general election.There are a handful of House and Senate races where the Boehner/Cantor decision to once again put their partisan anti-Obama mania before the good of the country could wreck GOP chances to win key races.
...Boehner’s speech did not include specific legislative priorities for the next Congress. He didn’t respond to media questions, and his staff blocked him off from reporters.
Boehner and other congressional leaders have been criticized in recent weeks for dismissing lawmakers without touching the federal farm bill.
Just before Congress went into recess, [Rep.] Loebsack wrote a letter to Boehner, urging him to push for a vote on the farm bill.
“Americans elected Congress to get things done for the American people. I stand ready to work in bipartisan fashion to get a farm bill passed and again urge your attention to bringing up the farm bill for passage in the House,” Loebsack wrote in September.
The farm bill, which sets subsidies for everything from crop insurance to milk production, expired on October 1 after the Republican majority in the House could not muster enough votes to pass a new law.
No race demonstrates the Democratic strategy better than in western Iowa, where Christie Vilsack, the wife of President Barack Obama's agriculture secretary, Tom Vilsack, is stressing the farm bill in a bid to unseat conservative Republican Representative Steve King.
"The lack of a farm bill right now has the farming community up in arms," said Bryan Kruse, 34, who has two small farms and works for another farmer to pay the bills outside Ringsted, population 422. "We need to get something done."
Kruse wants to know if he can still get federal crop insurance to protect his corn and soybeans against disasters like this year's drought.
...Democrats are focusing on the farm bill in Iowa, Wisconsin, South Dakota, Colorado and Illinois. It is also a major issue in close U.S. Senate races in Montana and North Dakota, where Republican House members are seeking seats held by Democrats.
...Vilsack, whose husband also was Iowa governor, touts the fact that the Democratic-controlled U.S. Senate passed a farm bill, but the Republican House did not.
Steffen Schmidt, a politics professor at Iowa State University in Ames, says most Democrats have done a poor job of explaining that, apart from farm subsidies, the farm bill includes food stamps, school lunches and rural development money.
"A big failure of the Democrats is they have not explained the farm bill has broader economic and social implications," Schmidt said. "Christie Vilsack has done better than other Democrats at making that point."