Saturday, June 22, 2013

Things Are Bleak In Boehnerland This Week


Boehnerland, the community of revolving door K Street lobbyists who run the House Republican caucus through their man John, is very troubled this week. The unexpected defeat of the Farm Bill has shaken up the lobbyist community to its core.
“We were shocked. We were watching the vote on TV and in the final minutes were saying ‘what are they doing? This thing isn’t going to pass!” said one commodity group lobbyist.

“I’m shocked,” said another lobbyist. “Our job as agriculture is to go to the House and say Mr. Speaker what is your plan for getting this done?”

The intense blame game that broke out immediately after the bill was rejected in a 195-234 vote will only make it harder to get a bill over the hump, supporters of the measure said.

...Lawmakers on the House Agriculture Committee were holding calls and frantic closed-door meetings with lobbyists to discuss their next moves, sources said.

One lobbying source said salvaging the bill may have to wait a few months.

“Bringing the bill back while the House is being hyper-partisan on this issue is probably not going to work,” he said.

The House bill was heavily backed by commodity groups, from rice and peanut producers in the South to corn, wheat and soy growers in the Midwest to the American Farm Bureau Federation and National Farmers Union.

It won only 24 votes from Democrats after the party balked over the inclusion of $20.5 billion in cuts to food stamp programs.

One lobbyist noted the bill appeared to lose support after an amendment requiring food stamp recipients to be working or looking to be worked-- sponsored by Rep. Steve Southerland (R-Fla.)-- was added to the bill. The solution, the lobbyist said, is to move the bill to the left.

“The Southerland amendment was a bridge too far for the Democrats,” the lobbyist said.

This source said Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) need to agree on a number for food stamp cuts. The Senate farm bill, approved in a bipartisan vote, includes $4 billion in cuts to food stamps.

Another lobbyist wasn’t so sure that would work.

“I don’t know how you solve this. If you reduce the food stamp cuts to $16 billion how many Democrats do you gain, how many people do you lose?” he said.

The gloom in the official statements from farm organizations was pervasive.

"Rather than pass a bill that reduces the deficit by $40 billion while meeting the commitments of a farm bill, the country was treated to more Washington dysfunction,” USA Rice Producers' Group chairwoman Linda Raun said. “Patience in farm country is wearing thin.”
Southerland's toxic amendment was #102, the very last amendment voted on before the bill itself. It passed 227-198. It was a bridge too far for half a dozen Republicans-- vulnerable northerners, Chris Gibson (NY), Pat Meehan (PA), Mike Fitzpatrick (PA), Peter King (NY), Richard Hanna (NY), David Joyce (OH) who are desperate to not be seen as lackeys for Confederate hardliners-- and only one slimy, corrupt Blue Dog/New Dem voted for it, Jim Cooper of Nashville.

Ron Kind (D-WI) had introduced an amendment that would have seriously reformed welfare to rich farmers by limiting government subsidies to wealthy farmers netting over a quarter million dollars annually. It would have saved $11 billion a year. That was voted down 208-217. 74 Republicans joined the vast majority of Democrats to back it. Big Ag shill Mike Conaway (R-TX) wasn't one of them. He called Kind's proposal a "slap in the face" to farmers that is supported by "radical environmental groups." Kind begged to differ:
"Unless my good friend wants to include the National Taxpayer Union, Taxpayers for Common Sense, Citizens Against Government Waste, Americans for Tax Reform, Committee for Responsible Taxation, American Commitment for the Center for Individual Liberty, 'R' Street Competitive Enterprise Institute in that category of radical environmental groups ... they've all come out in support, endorsing this legislation."
For the most part, the only Democrats who joined Cantor and the corrupt GOP establishment in voting against it were the sleazy corruptionists who suck up legalistic bribes from AgriBuisness (primarily New Dems and Blue Dogs) like John Barrow (GA), Henry Cuellar (TX), Jim Costa (CA), Sean Patrick Maloney (NY), Bill Owens (NY), Ron Barber (AZ), etc. That's why Chris Hayes called the bill (in the video above), very appropriately, a "colossal piece of crap" and "Robin Hood in reverse."

Another amendment that failed came from California rightist Tom McClintock, who wanted to eliminate funding to promote and expand farmers markets (something that is very popular in his own state). It was defeated in a bipartisan landslide 156-269. Only one Democrat voted for it, sleazy Florida New Dem Patrick Murphy, and 76 Republicans crossed the aisle to vote with the Democrats against McClintock's unpopular proposal.

Now Boehner has to decide if he will make the bill worse to get some of those Republicans back on board by, say cutting more billions out of food stamps, or making the bill less toxic to lure Democratic votes. He has to have some kind of a vote to send to the Senate-House conference committee!

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