By Erik Wasson
House Republicans on Tuesday ended their attempt to vote on a one-year farm bill, opting to move forward with a measure that would only provide drought aid to farmers.
The one-year bill was set to come up before the House Rules Commitee on Tuesday night but was removed from the agenda just before the meeting.
The House GOP is planning to take up a standalone drought bill under suspension of rules later this week, according to Rules Committee Chairman David Dreier (R-Calif.).
House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) urged his colleagues to vote for the limited disaster bill when it comes up for a vote on Thursday.
“My priority remains to get a five-year farm bill on the books and put those policies in place, but the most pressing business before us is to provide disaster assistance to those producers impacted by the drought conditions who are currently exposed," he said. "Beyond that, I will continue to work with my leadership, Ranking Member Peterson and our members to determine the best path forward."
The House and Senate had been wrestling all day over how to proceed on the farm bill.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (R-Nev.) made clear Tuesday that the Senate would not take up a one-year farm bill extension.
“The proposal that has come out of the House so far was directed toward cattle, animals, but the Cattlemen’s Association came out against that today,” Reid said. “I think what the House should do is take what we did in the Senate and send that to us.”
Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) said the upper chamber would even not take up a pared down drought bill this week, in the hope of keeping the pressure on the House to allow a five-year farm bill to go to conference.
“We are going to keep pushing in August,” Stabenow said. “I think in August there a lot of folks who are going to have to answer a lot of questions back home."
Stabenow said the one-year extension or stand-alone disaster bill would hurt dairy farmers and other commodity producers.
“We are willing to sit down and work out the differences on the commodity title, and I am hopeful we can do that over August and that we will be able to have something that we can present to the House and the Senate in September,” she said.
In the House, leading liberal Democrats on Tuesday sent a Dear Colleague letter urging no votes on a one-year extension, and pushed instead for a pared-down disaster bill.
There had been some speculation that liberals would support a one-year extension since it would not contain the food stamp that are in the five-year farm bills.
But liberal Reps. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) and George Miller (D-Calif.) said a freestanding disaster bill is better because the one-year bill could be a backdoor to a conference on the five-year package without a full debate on nutrition cuts.
A similar argument has been made by fiscal conservatives who oppose the five-year bill and want House Republicans to reject it.
“[W]hile the one-year extension does not cut deeply into the nutrition title, it could open the possibility of conferencing the farm bills passed by the Senate and the House Committee on Agriculture, both of which include cuts to the title. These cuts, particularly those in the House bill, would negatively impact the ability of millions of Americans to get the food and nutrition they need in these difficult economic times,” states the letter from DeLauro, McGovern and Miller.
Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) had prepared an amendment for the Rules Committee meeting which would insert a dairy program reform either the extension or pared down drought bill.
— This story was last updated at 6:35 p.m.