Reid lauds bipartisan work on farm bill, calls for expeditious passage

Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and ranking member Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) worked on the $955 billion five-year farm bill. The Senate isn’t expecting to finish work on the bill this week, but it will start the process until the immigration bill is ready.

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The bill, S. 954, would cut $23 billion from current spending levels over 10 years, but some Republicans have noted with a similar bill last year, that this cut is from post-stimulus levels. It also cuts $4 billion in food stamps, which has led to some Democratic opposition.

Last year’s farm bill passed on a 64-35 vote, but the House failed to take up their own farm bill.

This year the House has a $940 billion farm bill that cuts spending by $39.7 billion over 10 years — $20.5 billion are cuts to food stamps. The House bill likely won’t get a floor vote until June.

Reid said that while the Senate is working on this bipartisan measure, Democrats still haven’t gotten Republicans to agree to form a conference committee on the Senate and House budget resolutions. Democrats have asked Republicans to agree to go to conference on the budget eight times, but every time Republicans have objected.

“It’ been 58 days since Senate passed its budget,” Reid said. “Fifty-eight days we’ve been waiting for Republicans to say OK let’s work out our differences."

Republicans have demanded that any conference report not include increases to the debt ceiling or taxes. Reid called his a “very bizarre way to negotiate.”

“Republicans hope to put off compromise until the last minute to use the debt ceiling as a bargaining chip,” Reid said, adding that idea is “extreme and really senseless.”

The debt ceiling will likely need to be raised again in the fall.