Noem joins effort to force farm bill voteSD congresswoman third signer, and first Republican, on discharge petition.
By: Tom Lawrence, The Daily Republic
WASHINGTON — Rep. Kristi Noem has joined with other House members demanding an up-or-down vote on the stalled farm bill.
Noem signed a discharge petition Thursday. If signed by at least 218 House members — a majority of the 435 members — the farm bill must go to an immediate vote.
“I’m continuing to do everything I can to get a farm bill done for South Dakota,” she said in an email to The Daily Republic.
“The discharge petition is one angle I’m pushing. If we can get 218 signatures, we can force a vote on the farm bill.
“I’m also continuing to talk to other members of Congress and House leadership to find a way to give our farmers and ranchers the certainty they deserve.”
The discharge petition was filed by Rep. Bruce Braley, D-Iowa. Noem was the third member of Congress to sign it and the first Republican to do so. As of Thursday evening, 39 members had signed on.
The farm bill has been denied a vote by House leaders, especially Speaker John Boehner. Noem has been saying for weeks she hopes the bill will be put to the test on the floor.
Discharge petitions are rare and have little history of success. But proponents of the farm bill feel it is worth a shot, especially those under fire back home for not getting the annual ag and nutrition program passed and sent to President Obama.
The Senate passed its version in June and the House Agriculture Committee passed its own version on July 21. Noem, who is on the ag committee, voted for it.
But in the past several weeks, her Democratic opponent Matt Varilek has criticized Noem for not succeeding in getting the bill brought to a vote by the full House.
Noem was elected one of two freshmen liaisons to the House GOP leadership in 2011.
Her spokeswoman, Andrea McCarthy, said in addition to signing the discharge petition, Noem continues to lobby the Republican leaders to bring the bill to a vote.
“She is trying to work both sides,” McCarthy said.
Varilek has accused Noem of flip-flopping on the issue, noting she signed a draft of a letter calling for a discharge petition but then declined to sign the final version.
“It’s a shame Congresswoman Noem wavered so much, and waited so long, before reacting to pressure on this issue — but even last-minute support is better than none at all.” Varilek said in a statement Thursday afternoon.
“The big question now is whether Congresswoman Noem will live up to her promise at our Dakotafest debate to ‘lead the charge’ on making the petition successful, and getting a farm bill passed,” he said. “I hope she’ll work to round up support from the tea party freshmen who selected her as their representative.”
If the petition succeeds and the farm bill is brought to the floor, that would just be one step in the process.
Some House Republicans oppose the bill, which would authorize the spending of nearly $1 trillion over a decade, because they feel it is packed with wasteful programs. Some Democrats feel the House version of the bill cuts too much in nutrition funding for the poor.
The bill would need to pass the full House and then be sent to a conference committee made up senators and representatives, who would try to hammer out a final bill acceptable to both chambers.
It would then be sent to President Obama for his signature before it becomes law. The current farm bill expires Sept. 30.