Politics as usual in Congress

Politics as usual in Congress

AS Jared Hill, director of legislative affairs at the National Grain & Feed Assn., put it, "Good policy finds many places to crawl up and die in this town."

The fact that this is an election year has only complicated matters, as seen in recent weeks with holdups in the Senate on votes for the tax extenders and appropriations bills. Hill noted that Democrats have a lot of seats to defend this fall, which has created much of the difficulty in allowing any bills to come up for an open debate.

Mary Kay Thatcher, senior director of congressional relations at the American Farm Bureau Federation, added that lawmakers' concerns of staying alive in the primary elections also halted any recent progress.

After the Republican's number-two man, Rep. Eric Cantor (R., Va.), lost his primary, many wondered if the Tea Party was making a comeback. However, last week's run-away win by Senate Agriculture Committee ranking member Thad Cochran (R., Miss.) over state Sen. Chris McDaniel, a Tea Party-backed candidate, showed that might not be the case.

A Republican securing a win by saying he'll bring more money back to the state would not work with most other states' Republican constituents, however.

The Senate could very potentially switch from Democrat to Republican control this fall, and the national Republican Party took notice of the important role Cochran could play in the final outcome. The 76-year-old has served in the U.S. Senate for 36 years.

Thatcher noted that many political pundits say the Senate could go Republican, but that won't resolve any of the political impasses in Congress. In the Senate, it doesn't matter if the majority is 52-48 or 51-49, as it currently stands; obtaining the 60 votes for a super majority is still a high hurdle to clear.

Thatcher warned that Tea Party members continue to be a force to reckon with and have continually complicated matters for Speaker of the House John Boehner (R., Ohio). Democrats, too, are being challenged in primaries on whether they're "liberal enough."

"We have so few swing districts left in this country that most are more concerned about running to the right or left rather than reaching across the aisle," Thatcher said.

If Republicans do take control of the Senate, Cochran could assume the role of chairman of the powerful appropriations committee, and Sen. Pat Roberts (R., Kan.) could become chairman of the agriculture committee.

Last year, Roberts stepped down as ranking member of the Senate Agriculture Committee and let Cochran take the helm due to seniority. Roberts previously served as chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, but Democrats have been in control of the Senate over the past decade, preventing him from assuming the top position.

Meanwhile, Lucas easily secured his name for the Republican ticket in the House's Third Congressional District this fall, winning 83% of the vote. He has been in office since 1994.

Hill said many of his group's members believe it's unlikely that much will get done during the remainder of the year. "I'm not sure the lame duck is going to be the panacea of activity that some people expect it to be," he said.

Thatcher added that the post-election lame-duck session will be "truly lame if Republicans take over the Senate" as they'll no longer need to try to work across party lines in hopes of passing something more to their liking.

Volume:86 Issue:26

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