Senate Sets Path to Pass 2013 Farm Bill
June 7th, 2013
On Thursday, June 6, the Senate voted 75-22 to limit debate on its version of the 2013 Farm Bill, setting up a final vote on passage of the bill for Monday evening. Fifty-three Democrats and 22 Republicans voted to limit debate — or, to invoke “cloture” — and 22 Republicans voted against.
The vote to limit debate became necessary after Senate leaders failed to come to an agreement on a list of farm bill amendments to consider. Since consideration by the full Senate of the Committee-passed farm bill started in mid-May, over 200 amendments have been filed to the bill. Of the amendments filed to the bill, the Senate has considered only 14 and has adopted eight. This includes the NSAC-supported amendment led by Senators Coburn (R-OK) and Durbin (D-IL) to reduce crop insurance subsidies for millionaires that passed by a vote of 59-33.
Chairwoman Stabenow (D-MI) had been trying to secure a unanimous consent agreement on a shorter list of amendments to receive votes, but Senators kept on objecting to consideration of certain amendments unless others were also considered. This led to the need to limit debate on the bill, especially since the Senate Majority Leader Reid (D-NV) wants to move on to debate of other bills, including immigration reform. The immigration reform bill debate started today and picks up again on Tuesday.
The successful vote to limit debate on the farm bill also severely limits the number and types of amendments to be voted on. Currently, only two more Senate votes are expected on the Senate farm bill — one on a rural broadband amendment by Senator Leahy (D-VT) and the other on final passage of the bill.
It is unclear whether there will be also be a manager’s amendment that packages a variety of amendments that have bipartisan support and are relatively uncontroversial. It may still prove possible, but given the heated backroom debate and all the jockeying this week over amendments, it could very well be that no additional changes will be considered.
If that proves to be the case and the only votes on Monday evening are on the Leahy broadband amendment and then final passage, the Senate will not get the opportunity to vote on a number of priority sustainable agriculture amendments. These include the Brown amendment on local food and rural development, the Casey amendment on beginning farmer microloans, the Harkin amendment to modernize the interest rate for FSA farm real estate loans, the Leahy amendment on conservation payments for organic farmers, the Udall amendment on water conservation, the Grassley amendment on antitrust enforcement, the Tester amendment on public plant breeding research, and the Shaheen amendment on revenue insurance premium subsidy limits.
NSAC continues to support working out a manager’s amendment that would allow at least some of the less controversial amendments to move forward. We also continue to support a yes vote on final passage.
It is widely expected that the Senate will pass its version of the 2013 Farm Bill on Monday by a substantial bipartisan majority.
The full House is expected to take up consideration of the House Agriculture Committee-passed farm bill during the week of June 17. We will preview House action for our readers late next week.
A number of significant unknowns remain about the path to completion of the 2013 Farm Bill, but both the Senate and the House are taking the necessary steps to move the bill forward before the current extension expires on September 30.