July 2, 2010
Late on Thursday, July 1st, the House adopted by key amendments to the 2010 supplemental war spending bill (HR 4899). The House amended a Senate-passed version of the bill from May. Click here to view NSAC’s initial blog on this bill.
The Senate bill included $950 million worth of Farm Service Agency direct and guaranteed farm operating loans and guaranteed farm ownership loans, which the House did not alter. Thus, if the Senate can approve the House amendments when it returns from the July 4 recess week, then the badly needed emergency farm loan money will finally become a reality.
The House amendments do, however, alter the offset for the farm loan funding. Rather than reducing runaway spending on the Biomass Crop Assistance Program, the House amendments uses funds from earlier fiscal year appropriations bills that were provided to various program accounts at USDA but have not been used.
Both House and Senate versions of a different bill – the so-called tax extenders or second stimulus bill – contains funding for USDA ($1.15 billion) and the Interior Department ($3.4 billion) to settle discrimination cases pending against them from black farmers (Pigford case) and Native Americans (Cobell case) respectively. With future prospects for that important piece of legislation now in doubt, the House, prodded by the Congressional Black Caucus and others, added both settlement accounts to the supplemental spending bill yesterday, hopefully bringing those one step closer to reality. To offset the cost of those items among others, the House acted to close gift tax and cellulosic fuel tax credit loopholes. As with the farm credit situation, the outcome on Pigford funding now requires positive Senate action after the week-long recess.
The Senate version of the supplemental includes $45.5 billion in discretionary funding for FY 2010 ($37.1 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan plus additional amounts for US disaster aid, Haiti, the Gulf Coast oil spill, farm loans, and other domestic needs) plus $13 billion in mandatory funding for Vietnam veterans exposed to Agent Orange.
The House has now voted to add, in addition to the discrimination settlement funds, $10 billion to help save teaching jobs around the country, $4.95 billion for Pell Grants, $701 million for border security, $142 million in additional Gulf Coast oil spill funding, and $50 million in emergency food assistance, among other items. The House amendment offsets the additional funding via $11.7 billion in rescissions from discretionary programs and $4.7 billion in savings from changes to mandatory programs.
Among the discretionary offsets are roughly $300 million from broadband funding to USDA under the recovery/stimulus act, $487 million in reserve fund money for the WIC program, and another $220 million from other USDA accounts. Full details on those recessions are not yet publicly available.
One of the offsets – an $800 million recission from President Obama’s “Race to the Top” educational initiative – drew a rebuke and veto threat from the White House. The White House also weighed in against an amendment that ultimately was defeated that called for the White House to produce a plan and a timeline for the safe, orderly and expeditious redeployment of troops from Afghanistan.
NSAC will continue to urge Congress to find the most expeditious way possible to enact the farm credit and Pigford funding, with attention now turning back once again to the Senate once they return from the one-week July 4 recess.