Dynamic of unified Congress

Dynamic of unified Congress

REPUBLICANS showed their strength in the midterm elections last week, which may signal a change from the usual head butting. With Republicans gaining control of both the Senate and House, the chambers will test the President in his final two years.

The question now is whether Republicans will take a pragmatic approach that has a chance of gaining the President's approval or if they will draw lines in the sand that mean nothing except positioning ahead of the next election.

Chip Bowling, Maryland farmer and president of the National Corn Growers Assn., said Washington may look different come January, but fundamentally, things have not really changed. "There is no sign that the gridlock of the past few years will diminish," Bowling said.

Dale Moore, executive director of public policy at the American Farm Bureau Federation, said leaders on both sides of the aisle have voiced a desire to stop saying, "No, we can't do that," and instead say, "Yes, but we need to talk about the pushes and pulls to get something done."

Moore said it's a "prayed-for situation" if members of Congress could actually put partisan politics aside and look at good policy.

Bowling said corn farmers are frustrated that their voices go unheard and that so little gets done in Washington. "We welcome both new and returning members of Congress back to Washington, and we urge them to set aside partisan politics and meet their obligation to conduct the nation's business."

In 2015, one of the most likely accomplishments under Republican control includes getting budgets passed out of the Senate and House and possibly even reconciled. Although this doesn't require the President's signature, it does lay the framework for what could come in appropriations work later on.

Sen. Pat Roberts (R., Kan.) was able to secure a solid win (53% to 43%) over an independent candidate. Roberts is likely to take over as chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee after current ranking member Sen. Thad Cochran (R., Miss.) moves to the head of the appropriations committee.

One of the few Republican losses was for Rep. Steve Southerland (R., Fla.), whose name became associated with an amendment calling for massive cuts in the food stamp program that ended up derailing the farm bill vote in the House last summer.

The focus on nutrition and food assistance spending doesn't look like it will fade away with Republicans in control. Roberts had been critical of the spending levels, and Rep. Mike Conaway (R., Texas), who is anticipated to be the new House Agriculture Committee chairman, has also criticized how the program operates.

Rep. Collin Peterson (D., Minn.), ranking member of the House Agriculture Committee, was re-elected with 54% of the vote.

In Arkansas, Republican Tom Cotton defeated Sen. Mark Pryor (D., Ark.), chairman of the Senate agriculture appropriations subcommittee. In Iowa, Republican Joni Ernst defeated Rep. Bruce Braley (D., Iowa) for a Senate seat.

Republicans sealed their wins and could potentially add to their majority because Louisiana still needs to conduct a runoff. In Virginia, Democratic incumbent Mark Warner won by a razor-thin margin, so a recount may be requested.

The final Senate breakdown will likely be 53 Republicans, 45 Democrats and two Independents. This is below the 60-seat filibuster-proof majority for Republicans, which means bipartisanship will still be needed, although that may be hard to come by.

Volume:86 Issue:46

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