Frank Lucas Evaluates 2013 House Farm Bill Defeat; Plots Course for Future PassageWed, 26 Jun 2013 16:11:25 CDT
Congressman Frank Lucas, Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, has had a few days to digest the defeat of the 2013 Farm Bill last week. It was the first time in history that a farm bill has been rejected when brought to the House floor. Lucas spoke with Radio Oklahoma Network Farm Director Ron Hays about the defeat and his plans for its future. (You can hear their full conversation by clicking on the LISTEN BAR at the bottom of this story.)
“That doesn’t mean that the process is over with. That doesn’t mean that the reforms that were included in the bill, whether it’s the commodity title or nutrition or conservation, aren’t important, relevant and won’t ultimately become law, it just means on that day, on that bill, at that moment that Mr. Peterson and I could not persuade a simple majority-218 of our colleagues-to vote with us.”
Lucas said that the bill that ultimately was voted on had been subjected to hundreds of amendments in committee and on the House floor. The major sticking point, he said, probably had to do with the fact that the bill embodied $40 billion in cuts to the long-term, mandated spending. It was the first spending reform measure of its size and scope to ever make it to the floor. It would have returned some discretion to the states in how they verified the eligibility of food stamp recipients.
“The ultimate thing that made it impossible on that day to pass a bill dealt with the food stamp issues, the nutrition issues. My liberal colleagues could apparently only accept so much reform. I think they would have voted for a bill that would have cut $20 billion out of the nutrition title through reforms. I think they were prepared to address testing and a variety of other things. But, when you put all that together, it was too much for my liberal friends to support and there was a revolt among the Democrats.
“But, also in all fairness, I cannot criticize the Democrats exclusively because 61 of my Republican colleagues who voted for every one of those major reforms on food stamps wouldn’t vote for the final bill. And that’s even more amazing.”
Lucas says he is considering many possible options for getting a farm bill passed through the House and into a conference committee. He said he has to work with the rules committee on these options, he has to work with the majority leadership and, for any bill to gain sufficient votes for passage, he has to work with the Democrats.
“It has to be done in a bipartisan way. What was demonstrated this last week was, just as we’ve known in virtually every farm bill, with the exception of 1996, which was not really considered by itself on the floor, it’s the coalition of the middle--the hard extremes of the body have never voted for a farm bill-it’s the coalition of the middle that cares about our food supply, cares about rural America that has passed the bill before. We just have to get closer, I think, back to those principles and we’ll pass the bill.”
Lucas said they are in the process of examining last week’s defeat with a fine-toothed comb to learn what can be done to get the farm bill back on track. He said he is as committed as ever to getting a bill passed, through conference committee, and onto the President’s desk.
“But I assure all my neighbors back home I tried as hard as I could in the circumstances I was in to put 218 votes together. I tried. I will continue to try. We will get this done. I’m just not sure how crooked the trail is going to be or when it will happen, or maybe the better phrase is how wild the rollercoaster ride is going to be, but we will get this done.”
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