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Senate votes on budget amendments galore

Senate votes on budget amendments galore

FOR the first time in four years, the full Senate passed its budget, voting on 101 of the more than 500 amendments filed.

The Democrats' version stands sharply in contrast to a previously approved version from the House, setting up an ongoing debate over how to handle the nation's financial issues.

The Senate budget calls for almost $1 trillion in new taxes over the next decade to help reduce the deficit while keeping safety net programs in place. The House budget, on the other hand, plans to balance the budget in 10 years not by increasing taxes but instead by reducing funding for domestic programs.

The Senate's close 50-49 vote in favor of the budget blueprint showed that it didn't garner the support of conservative Democrats and also highlights the ideological divide on how to manage the nation's debt.

Several amendments of importance to agriculture found their way into the final Senate budget bill, including:

* Sen. Rob Portman (R., Ohio) co-sponsored an amendment with Sen. Ron Wyden (D., Ore.) that would implement a deficit-neutral reserve fund that encourages swift movement on renewing trade promotion authority (TPA). Portman, a former trade representative in the Bush Administration, said he supports the export agreements the current Administration is considering but emphasized that trade negotiators "must have TPA to ensure that we get the best possible deal for American workers."

* The Senate also approved an amendment introduced by Sen. Kay Hagen (D., N.C.) to strengthen enforcement of provisions of free trade agreements that relate to textile and apparel articles.

* An amendment was approved from Sen. Dean Heller (R., Nev.) ensuring that the Bureau of Land Management collaborates with western states to prevent the listing of the sage-grouse under the Endangered Species Act of 1973.

* A measure introduced by Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R., Alaska) and Mark Begich (D., Alaska) requiring labeling of genetically engineered salmon passed.

* Sens. Bob Casey (D., Pa.) and Pat Toomey (R., Pa.) worked together to amend the budget resolution with language that enables Congress to increase funding to the inland waterway system with offsetting reductions in spending on lower-priority programs elsewhere in the government. This amendment complements Casey's RIVER Act, which makes cost-share reforms and provides more money for operations and maintenance for locks and dams on the nation's rivers.

* An amendment proposed by Sen. Max Baucus (D., Mont.) was approved by unanimous consent to establish a deficit-neutral reserve fund to support rural schools and districts.

Some amendments were voted down, including one by Sen. John Thune (R., S.D.) to permanently abolish the federal death tax, which failed on a 46-53 vote.

Also, an amendment proposed by Sen. David Vitter (R., La.) to prevent the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service from engaging in closed-door settlement agreements that ignore affected states and counties was not brought to the floor for a full vote.

There was a long list of amendments that were filed but never agreed upon for a full Senate vote, such as:

* Sen. Mike Johanns' (R., Neb.) amendment to restrict EPA from conducting aerial surveillance to inspect or to record images of agricultural operations.

* The Bloomberg Big Gulp Amendment by Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas) to prevent regulations on food and beverage size and quantity.

* An amendment introduced by Baucus to include livestock and specialty crop disaster programs in a deficit-neutral reserve fund for the farm bill.

* An amendment from Sen. Tom Coburn (R., Okla.) to prohibit the use of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits to purchase junk food.

In line with legislation introduced earlier this year, Sen. Pat Roberts (R., Kan.) proposed several amendments to save money while closing loopholes and making improvements to SNAP.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, Roberts' Improve Nutrition Program Integrity & Deficit Reduction Act would save $36 billion over 10 years.

Volume:85 Issue:13

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