The U.S. Senate ground to a halt yesterday amid a hailstorm of objections to various Farm Bill amendments, both germane and non-germane to the legislation. Roll Call had a great article highlighting the role played by Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., in torpedoing efforts to reform the Farm Bill by insisting on forcing a vote on an unrelated amendment to gut last year’s flood insurance reform package.
The flood bill passed with wide bipartisan support, including from Sen. Landrieu, but she has since drafted an amendment to stall the package’s key reform: a move toward risk-based flood insurance rates to reduce the huge subsidies for coastal development that have conspired to put the National Flood Insurance Program in $24 billion worth of debt.
She tried to push the same amendment on the Water Resources Development Act but got rebuffed. Now she’s insisting upon a vote to add it to the Farm Bill and committing to object to consideration of any other amendment until she gets it. Several other Senators responded in kind with objections of their own and the process devolved to the point where Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., did the procedural equivalent of throwing up his hands and saying “Forget it” by scheduling a cloture vote on the Farm Bill tomorrow morning.
If no agreement comes (and at this point, it doesn’t sound like the parties are even having discussions), that means there will be NO more amendments on the bill at all. Transparency for crop insurance subsidies? Out of luck. Enacting a $50,000 payment limit to target subsidies to smaller operators? Sorry. Reforming our absurd dairy or sugar policies? Not gonna happen. None of the common sense changes my colleague Lori Sanders highlighted last week will get a chance, in no small part thanks to Sen. Landrieu’s fixation on gutting the flood insurance reform bill she voted for last year.
The focus of Farm Bill reform will now turn to the House, where their commitment to an open process holds the only hope for making substantial changes to agriculture policy.