Cantor vague on process for CR, farm bill conference

"Yes, we are looking forward to the legislative activity for the remained of this month ... to include appropriations bills," Cantor said.

"We also look towards the prospects of the other body perhaps beginning to act ... at all on appropriations bills," he added. "It does take two to be bicameral, and we need that body to act as well."

Hoyer said holding a budget conference with the Senate might help in passing 2014 spending bills. But Cantor reiterated that Senate Democrats are continuing to push for tax hikes, which House Republicans won't accept.

"Until we get beyond that, I'm not sure there's going to be a resolution as to a budget conference," he said.

The House has taken up just a few of the 12 spending bills for 2014, and next week it will consider the Defense Department spending bill. That bill was held up this week because of a GOP effort to limit amendments to the bill dealing with Syria and Egypt and the National Security Agency.

Cantor did not say whether or how the House might get around these problems next week, and said only that the House Rules Committee would decide whether all amendments or just some would be allowed for a debate and a vote.

The Senate is expected to start work on its first 2014 spending bill, on Transportation and Housing, next week.

Hoyer also pressed Cantor on when the House would conference with the Senate on the farm bill. Cantor indicated it would be after the House passes a nutrition title, which would include authorization for billions of dollars in food stamps.

"We are committed to acting with urgency to bring to the floor a bill under the nutrition title of what was formally the farm bill," the majority leader said.

"It is our hope that we can get a nutrition bill to the floor because we believe strongly that the programs under those titles providing a safety net to the country's most vulnerable is something important that we maintain."

Hoyer said that goes against the GOP's original plan, which was to pass the farm bill without the food stamp language in order to get to a Senate conference. But Cantor told him he never said that was the plan.

Last week, Cantor did say that Republicans were looking to pass a food stamp bill first, and as soon as possible.

"Certainly it is our intention to act with dispatch to bring to the floor a bill dealing with the SNAP program, that portion of what was traditionally the farm bill," he said July 11.

But Republicans were sending mixed messages last week on how they would handle the farm bill. House Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions (R-Texas) said last week that he wanted to get to a conference with the Senate and work out food stamp language there, because House Republicans were balking at passing a farm bill that included this language.

Either way, Cantor indicated that a nutrition bill would not come up next week, and did not say when the House would consider it.

On other issues, Cantor said the House might take up two energy bills next week — H.R. 1582, the Energy Consumers Relief Act, and H.R. 2218, the Coal Residuals Reuse and Management Act.

Finally, he said the House would move quickly on any student loan bill that the Senate sends to the House, although it's not yet clear the Senate will do that next week.

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