Kicking the can down the road
What do you think your elected representatives are up to? Even as the drought worsened in the Midwest and Great Plains, Congress proved unable to provide relief for farmers and ranchers before leaving Washington for a month of campaigning, reports the Los Angeles Times. On Thursday, the House approved a scaled-down $383-million package to help ranchers whose livestock losses and feed costs mount as arid conditions make land unusable for grazing. The Senate declined to consider the bill before recessing, preferring a broader bipartisan measure that it passed overwhelmingly last month. The vote in the House was 223 to 197, with 35 mostly farm-state Democrats joining Republicans in support. Most Democrats held out for the broader bill, which would provide more robust drought relief to other agricultural sectors. Democrats also object to the GOP's plan to offset the costs by cutting conservation funds. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced new aid for farmers and ranchers earlier last week. More than half the nation's counties have federal disaster designations, largely because of drought. Farm-state senators from both parties appeared unwilling to separate the relief provisions from the broader farm bill, which they will try again to pass in the fall. Supporters of the House bill said ranchers needed immediate help. Rep. Frank D. Lucas (R-Okla.), chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, acknowledged the stopgap measure was not a long-term solution but said, "It takes care of the problem." "It's deeply troubling that the House would leave farmers and small businesses in the lurch," said Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee. "House leadership is doing what Congress always does - kicking the can down the road instead of coming together to solve problems." Maybe we should start withholding their paychecks. Perhaps then they will work together.