WASHINGTON D.C. - First District Rep. Tim Walz is criticizing Republican leadership in the U.S. House of Representatives for recessing the congressional session without forwarding the newly split Farm Bill to the conference committee where a compromise bill could be made.
Meanwhile, state Rep. Mike Benson (R-Rochester) is voicing his support for the Republican plan to make even deeper funding cuts into the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly known as food stamps.
Benson has announced his candidacy to challenge Walz in 2014.
Half a bill, full
push on cuts
The split Farm Bill was passed in the House in July after a compromise version was voted down. The compromise bill cut into food assistance and pushed reforms like ending direct payments to farmers. The split bill only covers the agriculture legislation while adding new subsidies like cotton. It also seeks to end the laws that revert the spending to the high Truman administration levels if a new Farm Bill is not passed.
The split bill was part of a successful move to gain enough Republican votes to advance the agriculture elements. The Senate passed a complete bill into conference committee and is unlikely to support a split Farm Bill.
More recently, Republican leadership did not forward the bill to conference committee before going on break until September in order to coordinate a push to pass the nutrition portions with $40 billion in cuts, more than double the compromise bill's cuts.
The Farm Bill has traditionally been passed with the food assistance and agriculture components combined in an effort to create a coalition of rural and metro interests. Congress has until October to pass a new bill.
Walz, a fourth-term Democrat, who voted for the compromise bill but voted against the split bill, said the split bill is "dead on arrival" for the Senate. He is worried a farm bill will not be passed in time because Republican painted themselves into a corner "with partisan politics." He said a failed vote will mean Republicans can only either reauthorize the current bill, which hardliners will not vote for, or allow the higher spending levels to kick in.
Walz wants to help Republicans out of the situation. He is willing to vote for difficult cuts if it advances the bill to conference committee. But, he will not vote for cuts that hurt children and the elderly, who represent the vast majority of food stamp recipients.
He said citizens should voice their frustration in force, especially at events like Farmfest, to make Congress realize how important it is to pass a compromise Farm Bill.
Benson said he supports the splitting of the Farm Bill and the deeper cuts because all areas need to take tough cuts to get the deficit and government spending under control. He said the real source of the problem is Walz's support of President Barack Obama's failed economic policies, which forced even more people on to food assistance. He said the real solution is improving the economy and job growth so more people will not need the assistance.
He criticized Walz's objection as disingenuous because it ignored the "high likelihood" that Congress will simply pass a compromise bill out of committee. He said it also does not admit that Republicans are simply using the normal political process of trying to position themselves for the best possible angle to seek their funding goals.
(Josh Moniz can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org)