House Rules Committee gives farm bill new life

Thursday vote planned for farm bill minus the nutrition title and repeal of 1949 permanent law.

In a late night meeting Wednesday night, the House Rules Committee paved the path forward for a vote on the farm-only section of the farm bill in the House Thursday with a closed debate. The process will allow only for an up or down vote with no amendments.

The House floor schedule for today, released by Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R., Va.), indicated that, “On Thursday, the House will meet at 9:00 a.m. for legislative business. First votes expected: 10:30- 11:00 a.m. Last votes expected: 12:30- 1:30 p.m.”  H.R. 2642 was the only legislative item listed on the schedule for today.

The House previously was unable to pass its comprehensive farm bill June 20, which required House Republican leaders to regroup and determine a way to get a bill to conference with the Senate.

House Agriculture Committee chairman Frank Lucas (R., Okla.) sat before the Rules Committee and defended the decision to move all but the nutrition title that was included in the previously debated bill.

Lucas said the House has been on a roller coaster since the June 20 vote and in his view H.R. 2462 is the "best possible alternative we have to crafting comprehensive policy." He noted that the old dynamic of rural and urban cooperation on farm bills that has worked since 1965 may not be valid anymore.

When Lucas was questioned why the nutrition title couldn't also be brought up separately, he replied that the "farm bill portion of the farm bill achieved consensus" but the challenges in his own party on food stamp funding proved that it is "just not solvable in this short-term." Lucas gave his word that the committee would craft a nutrition only title "as quick as we possibly can" and although it "may not make everyone happy," it would fulfill the committee's obligations to also address nutrition funding.

Fellow Oklahoman Rep. Tom Cole said he trusted Lucas to make the right call in bringing the farm-only part of the bill for a vote. "Sometimes when you're in the huddle, you just trust your quarterback. Frank Lucas is the quarterback I listen to," Cole said.

However, using the same analogy, Rep. Alcee Hastings (D., Fla.) praised Lucas' efforts to work in a bipartisan fashion, but questioned whether the play calling on the latest farm bill attempt was made by someone with the earphones on, he said in reference to the House Republican leaders.

"We need to pass a vehicle to get to conference with the Senate so we can ultimately put the final product together," Lucas said to the House Rules Committee members.

The other significant change in the bill is a repeal of 1938 and 1949 permanent law provisions. It instead makes the 2013 Title I permanent law going forward. 

The House Rules Committee decided on a closed vote, with one hour of debate. The process will not allow for any amendments to be brought up. The sections being considered already had 60 amendments debated during the June 19-20 floor votes.

House Rules Committee chairman Rep. Pete Sessions (R., Texas) said he had great respect for Democrat's call for an open debate, but that proved to be a seemingly "difficult task" the last time. He will manage the debate Thursday and Rep. Jim McGovern (D., Mass.) will manage the Democratic response.

As the bill stands, the White House would veto the bill a statement from the administration said.

"The Administration strongly opposes H.R. 2642, the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013.  Because the 608 page bill was made available only this evening, the Administration has had inadequate time to fully review the text of the bill," the statement said. "It is apparent, though, that the bill does not contain sufficient commodity and crop insurance reforms and does not invest in renewable energy, an important source of jobs and economic growth in rural communities across the country."

For more, view the Rules Committee hearing on the bill or view the 608-page bill text. Be sure to follow Feedstuffs on Twitter for how the vote comes down Thursday.

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