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Morning Action: Farm Bill Battle Continues, Some Senators Insist on Food Stamp Inclusion

FARM BILL.  The chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) said food stamps will remain in the final farm bill – and of course she is using food stamps as leverage to try to rush the House to send their farm bill to conference (sub. req’d):

Stabenow dispelled any notion that nutrition programs would be left out of the final product of a Senate-House conference.

A bill without the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program is one that “we could not pass that through the Senate nor would the president of the United States sign that kind of a bill,” the Michigan Democrat told reporters during the call.

Funding for SNAP could continue without farm bill reauthorization, Stabenow said. However, the program, formerly known as food stamps, could be “vulnerable” to significant cuts and fights in the appropriations process, she added.

“The policy is written through the farm bill. The funding is done through the appropriations process,” Stabenow said. “The appropriators will still make decisions about how much will be spent. In order to have rational long-term policy and tackle the areas of fraud and abuse we tackle [in a comprehensive bill] you have to have the farm bill passed.”

Stabenow is right about one thing, and we’ve pointed it out too: going to conference on a farm bill with the Senate before they accept the need for real reform is simply an opportunity to continue the unholy alliance between food stamps and the farm bill.  The difference is that she sees that as a good thing.

Nevertheless, House Republicans will send their bill to the Senate today.

Physically sending the text of the bill across the Rotunda will enable Senate Democrats to seek to appoint members to a House-Senate farm bill conference.

NUCLEAR OPTION.  The joint caucus of Senate Democrats and Republicans left yesterday evening’s meeting without  a deal to prevent Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) from changing the chamber’s rules by the so-called “nuclear option”:

Some lawmakers expressed hope Reid and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) would strike a deal by Tuesday morning but no agreement appeared in sight shortly before 10 p.m. Monday.

Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) described the conversation as positive in tone but ultimately it failed to produce a resolution.

OBAMACARE.  Unions and Big Labor were major supporters of Obamacare since its inception, and they still want to find ways to fix it.  But even they are furious about its failure thus far and about the fact that they are losing health care coverage:

It’s not every day that union bosses sound like policy experts at The Heritage Foundation.

But the beginning of the Obamacare letter from the heads of three major unions—the Teamsters, the United Food and Commercial Workers, and UNITE-HERE—to Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) is eerily similar to our experts’ writings.

The unions, of course, were heavy supporters of Obamacare, but even they can’t deny its effects now.

They aren’t the only ones upset about Obamacare. The Obamacare advice program has sparked fights across the country as well:

An ObamaCare program that advises consumers on their new health insurance options is sparking fights across the country from critics who say it puts consumers at risk of fraud.

Eighteen states have enacted or are considering legislation to apply tougher requirements to “navigators,” the people and organizations who will help patients shop for health insurance on the Affordable Care Act’s new marketplaces.

Republicans in Congress have also taken up the charge, arguing that the navigator program could admit felons or allow the theft of consumers’ personal information.

DOT. The Department of Transportation (DOT) announced Monday that it had canceled audits on stimulus payments to DOT contractors:

According to a memorandum from Louis C. King, DOT’s assistant inspector general for financial and information technology audits, the IG’s office would not continue the investigation “due to other higher priority work demands.”

The IG opened the investigation on April 30 of this year. It sought to determine “whether [DOT’s Federal Highway Administration (FHWA)] has adequate internal controls to prevent and detect improper payments to [American Recovery and Reinvestment Act] grant recipients.”

According to a summary of the investigation posted at the time, “the Department of Transportation has identified FHWA’s Federal-aid Highway Programs as susceptible to significant improper payments.”

Recent investigations have found that stimulus recipients have misspent millions in FHWA funds.

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