This morning, the Senate voted on closing off debate on the 2007 Farm Bill. The cloture vote was 55-42 in favor of the measure; however, under Senate rules 60 votes are necessary to end debate. It’s now unlikely that the Senate will be able to debate and vote on the bill and amendments before the end of the year. Right now, there’s some talk of extending the current 2002 bill, but farm supporters are unhappy with that.
The Senate’s consideration of a new farm bill is splitting along party lines. The Democratic majority wanted to limit amendments to those that were relevant, with the Republicans saying that only amendments acceptable to the majority were being considered “relevant.” President Bush has threatened to veto the bill because of its failure to address real reform and the reluctance of both the House and the Senate to put income limits on farmers’ ability to receive subsidies. The $286 billion farm bill also puts a greater burden on taxpayers.
Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, in a statement after the cloture vote, pointed his finger at the Republicans:
I was deeply disappointed by this morning’s vote to block the farm bill. Frankly, I worry that there is a deliberate and orchestrated attempt to derail the farm bill. Indeed, the farm bill is just one car on a much longer train that includes the children’s health insurance bill and most of the appropriations bills. Between Republican filibusters here in the Senate, and President Bush’s barrage of vetoes and veto threats, they seem to be setting up a giant train wreck at the end of this session of Congress.
However, the Acting Secretary of Agriculture, Chuck Conner, thinks there’s still time to craft a bill: In his own statement, he said:
There is still time for Congress to pass a new farm bill. The Senate must act quickly to engage in a full and open debate and to deliver a farm bill that contains honest bookkeeping without raising taxes.