Boehner to Ryan: Hands off farm bill

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Thursday said he does not believe the deficit savings in a 2013 farm bill should be used to reach a year-end budget deal replacing the sequester.

The farm bill being negotiated between the House and the Senate could contain as much as $51 billion in savings over 10 years. That could go a long way toward replacing the $91 billion in automatic agency budget cuts in fiscal 2014, prompting speculation that a budget deal could midwife the enactment of the farm bill.

But Boehner said he has told Rep. Paul Ryan (Wis.), the lead budget negotiator for House Republicans, not to look to the farm bill for savings.

"I think it’s a separate issue, and I’ve made it very clear to Chairman Ryan," Boehner said at his weekly press conference.

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At his stage, farm bill talks appear to be moving along faster than any budget deal.

Rep. Collin Peterson (Minn.), who leads the House Democrats on the farm bill conference, said a framework deal could emerge next week, even though both sides are struggling to resolve a $33 billion difference in the size of food stamp cuts in the farm bill.

Meanwhile House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Senate Budget Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-Wash.) are bickering about whether tax increases must be part of any budget deal and appear to have made scant progress.

Boehner on Thursday also said he believes closing tax loopholes should be part of tax reform, not a sequester deal. 

The slow pace of budget talks has both defense hawks worried about $20 billion more in cuts to the Pentagon looming in January, and appropriators getting frustrated.