Morning Action: Combining Farm Bill and Food Stamps is Legislative Logrolling
FARM BILL. Conservatives’ message about the so-called “farm bill” is that it’s not really a farm bill at all; it’s a food stamp bill. Heritage Action CEO Michael Needham and Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) explain:
While earmarks no longer serve as congressional currency, lawmakers still find ways to engage in legislative logrolling. Nowhere is that more evident than in the misnamed “farm bill,” in which lawmakers wrap disparate issues — agriculture subsidies and the food-stamp program — into one piece of legislation.
It is one of Washington’s dirty little secrets: One reason lawmakers support massive spending on the food-stamp program is that it helps get farm programs passed. It’s all politics.
But even as this unholy alliance between rural lawmakers and their urban and suburban colleagues has held steady — the Senate Agriculture Committee cleared the 1,150-page, $955 billion bill in just three hours — it is undeniable that the shape of the “farm” bill is changing.
This year, 80 percent of the spending in the Agriculture Reform, Food, and Jobs Act goes toward the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly referred to as food stamps. In 2002 and 2008, roughly two-thirds of “farm”-bill spending went toward food stamps.
IMMIGRATION. Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Jeff Sessions (R-AL) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) sent a letter to their colleagues to express concern with the Gang of Eight immigration bill:
We need to fix our broken immigration system. We must secure our borders, enforce the laws on the books, improve the legal immigration system, and ensure we never again repeat the mistakes of the past. In 1986, the American people were promised that, in exchange for granting legal status to illegal immigrants, the border would be secured and the law enforced. Washington broke these promises. Unfortunately, the so-called “Gang of Eight” immigration bill, S. 744, repeats these past mistakes.
During the Senate Judiciary Committee’s consideration of S. 744, the common-sense amendments offering real solutions were rejected. The bill’s proponents repeatedly referenced an unalterable “deal” that had been struck beforehand. As a result, the core provisions of the bill remain the same. If passed, S. 744 will leave our borders unsecure and our immigration system deeply dysfunctional.
After going into detail on 9 specific concerns they have with the bill, they call on Congress to pass a bill that actually solves the problems of our broken immigration system.
Proponents of the Gang of Eight bill are working to gain support for it, which they believe may be accomplished through the addition of various amendments to the bill (sub. req’d):
Centrists in both parties are keeping their powder dry as the Senate moves closer to taking up an immigration overhaul. But several are considering floor amendments that, if adopted, could increase the likelihood of their broader backing.
Support from Democratic and Republican moderates will be crucial to passing the bill (S 744), which could struggle to reach the 60 vote threshold needed to ward off a filibuster. On Tuesday, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., one of the sponsors, caused a ripple when he told Fox News the bill still lacks the votes, even though Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., told a Las Vegas television station last week he is not worried about getting 60 votes.
STUDENT LOANS. After proclaiming that he is not looking for compromise but simply looking to pass the bill, Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) has scheduled test votes on competing House and Senate student loan proposals (sub. req’d):
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on Tuesday set up test votes later this week on competing proposals to prevent federal student loan interest rates from doubling on July 1.
The chamber is expected to hold a cloture vote Thursday on a motion to proceed to a bill (S 1003) by Oklahoma Republican Tom Coburn that would tie student loan interest rates to the 10-year Treasury note rate plus 3 percentage points. Senators then plan to vote to limit debate on a motion to proceed to a Democratic measure (S 953) that would extend the current 3.4 percent fixed interest rate on federal student loans for two years.
Motions to invoke cloture require 60 votes for approval. While the supermajority threshold is intended to make measures difficult to pass and force senators to reach some other type of agreement, Reid said Tuesday that he does not intend to negotiate on the issue.
FOREIGN POLICY. Tom Donilon is stepping down as the top national security advisor to President Obama. He will be replaced by Susan E. Rice, the American ambassador to the United Nations (sub. req’d):
This afternoon President Barack Obama will announce Donilon will be departing in early July to be succeeded by the United Nations ambassador, according to a White House official. Obama, in turn, will announce that he will nominate Samantha Power to succeed Rice as ambassador.
Rice withdrew from consideration for the secretary of State post last year amid criticism for talking points she had delivered on the Benghazi, Libya, terrorist attack. Speculation immediately turned to her as a candidate for Donilon’s post, which does not require Senate confirmation.
Power’s nomination will require Senate confirmation.
OBAMA. According to a recent poll, the string of scandals and controversies that has emerged over the past few months is taking a toll on President Obama:
According to a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, when asked about each of three current controversies — Benghazi, the IRS scandal, and the Justice Department’s monitoring of journalists — at least 55 percent of respondents in each case say the scandal raises doubts about “the overall honesty and integrity of the Obama administration.” And for each, at least 39 percent say it raises major doubts (with Benghazi the highest at 45 percent).
So far, the poll shows Americans aren’t rushing to blame Obama directly. His approval has remained steady at 48 percent — down slightly from earlier this year, though virtually unchanged from April.
But Americans so far are more inclined to believe the worst of the administration than its explanations for the controversies. They are more likely to say (43 percent to 29 percent) that the IRS scandal is part of a widespread campaign against conservative groups than that it was just a few officials misbehaving, and they side with journalists in the Justice Department controversy (48 percent say the monitoring was not appropriate, versus 27 percent who say it was appropriate).