House speaker: No action on farm bill before electionNoem expresses disappointment; Varilek pounces on announcement.
By: Chris Mueller, The Daily Republic
The House will not attempt to pass a new farm bill before the November elections and will not pass a short-term extension of the current bill before it expires at the end of the month, Speaker John Boehner said Thursday morning.
After making the announcement, Boehner, R-Ohio, acknowledged that disagreement over spending cuts to farm and nutrition programs — with legislators still arguing over whether the cuts go too far or not far enough — are mainly to blame for the House’s inaction.
During a media teleconference at 11 a.m. Central time Thursday, Rep. Kristi Noem, R-S.D., sounded unaware of Boehner’s announcement, which had come earlier in the morning. She said farmers and ranchers “could wind up with the short end of the stick” if the bill fails to pass before the current bill expires Sept. 30.
“I’m very disappointed that Congress hasn’t been able to come together in a bipartisan way to get the bill done,” Noem said.
Media reports of Boehner’s announcement started appearing on the Internet shortly after 10 a.m. Central time, before Noem’s teleconference began.
Noem and other farm-state legislators had been scrambling to bring a vote to the House floor on the farm bill before Congress adjourns at the end of the week. Despite her efforts, Noem said Boehner and other Republican leaders were hesitant to bring the bill to a vote because of concerns it could fail.
In an interview with The Daily Republic following Boehner’s announcement and Noem’s teleconference, Noem’s spokeswoman Andrea McCarthy said while she was unsure if Noem was aware Boehner’s announcement was going to be made Thursday, Noem knew that no vote on the farm bill was likely to be scheduled before the recess. McCarthy said most programs under the farm bill will not be affected by the expiration until Jan. 1.
“She’s frustrated,” McCarthy said. “It’s frustrating that we’re not getting our work done. Our farmers and ranchers deserve better.”
McCarthy was adamant Noem had done all she could do for the farm bill. “She has worked hard, obviously,” McCarthy said, citing phone calls, private meetings, letters, rallies and speeches on the House floor.
During the teleconference, Noem said Boehner has told her he plans to work on passing a farm bill after the November elections. The farm bill is comprehensive legislation that includes laws, programs and benefits involving everything from crop insurance and farm credit to agricultural research and nutrition programs.
A discharge petition to bring the farm bill to the floor has at least 56 signatures but needs 218 to force a vote. Noem was the first Republican to sign the petition. Noem expressed concern for farmers already impacted by drought who are looking ahead to next year without the safety net a new farm bill would provide.
“Not having a farm bill adds to the uncertainty and impacts the decisions they are making,” she said. Noem also addressed criticism of her work on the farm bill from her Democratic challenger, Matt Varilek. The stalled farm bill has become an issue in their race.
“I know that he will try to play political games with anything,” she said. “It’s too serious of a situation to play political games.” Noem declined to speculate on where she stands in her race against Varilek.
“I am confident that I’m going to work very hard to tell my story and visit with South Dakotans about what is important to them,” she said.
Varilek, in an interview Thursday with The Daily Republic, called Congress’ failure to act on a farm bill shocking and disappointing.
“Unfortunately, it shows the effort of my opponent has been a failure,” he said.
Varilek blamed an apparent inability of House members to cooperate.
“There was a shortage of people willing to work together to find a middle ground,” he said, adding Noem should share the blame for the House Republican leadership’s failure to act on the bill.
In a statement released after Boehner’s announcement, South Dakota Democratic Party Chairman Ben Nesselhuf said that because of Noem’s failure to get the farm bill passed, “it’s now clear she just isn’t up for the job.”
“Noem and her fellow Republican leaders are turning their eyes to the November election without a farm bill in hand, leaving South Dakota farmers and ranchers high and dry,” he said.