D.C. Watch: Congress standoff trigger budget doubts

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Capitol Building Senate Republicans blocked efforts by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., to appoint members of a Conference Committee that would try to work out a compromise between Senate and House budget proposals. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has already said the House will not name members of a Conference Committee “unless and until a framework of an agreement is in place”.

The standoff makes a compromise budget very unlikely, suggesting that House and Senate Appropriations Committees will pass widely divergent bills and government funding will continue to depend mostly on “continuing resolutions”.

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., says he plans to move ahead with a farm bill markup beginning May 15, despite pressure from the House leadership to put it off. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., has asked Lucas to take more time and consider tougher changes to the food stamp (SNAP) program.

Cantor controls the House schedule and was a key player in keeping the farm bill from coming to the House floor for debate last year.

 Senator Max Baucus, D-Mont., has announced that he will not seek reelection next year. Baucus has been in the Senate for 35 years and he chairs the Senate Finance Committee and is a senior member of the Senate Agriculture Committee. Baucus says he will push for passage of a new 5-year farm bill this year.

Why this is important: Baucus is the sixth Senate Democrat to announce plans to retire in 2014 and the retirements boost the chances that the GOP could win a majority in the Senate in next year’s election.

At least some members of Congress will be pushing for a safety net for livestock producers when a new farm bill is debated. Representative Kristi Noem, R-S.D., introduced the Livestock Disaster Protection Program earlier this month.

The bill would extend several programs that expired in 2011 and make them retroactive to cover 2012 and 2013 as well. The livestock provisions will be supported in the Senate by Mark Udall, D-Colo., and Mike Enzi, R-Wyo.

Background: Livestock producers all across the country were affected by the 2012 drought but did not receive any government support to offset high feed costs or livestock deaths.



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