REID PUSHES SENATE TO CONSIDER FARM & ENERGY BILLS
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) told his colleagues Thursday morning that they should prepare for a long day ahead as he pushes them to complete consideration of both the farm and energy bills today.
Thursday's first farm bill-related vote marked a defeat for supporters of stricter payment limits. By a 56-43 margin, senators opposed the payment limits amendment offered by Sens. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) and Charles Grassley (R-Iowa). The Dorgan-Grassley amendment needed at least 60 votes to be added to the underlying bill.
The amendment was opposed by the American Farm Bureau Federation. Another payment limits-related amendment by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) is expected. Senators have defeated all the amendments offered since farm bill debate began earlier this week.
In related news, the chairmen of the House and Senate agriculture committees have agreed to a short-term extension of the existing farm bill for budgeting purposes. The extension to March 15 will not extend the 2002 commodity support programs to the 2008 crop year.
"We have seen promising movement in the Senate, and I am confident that we can finish work on the farm bill early next year," House Agriculture Chair Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) said. "This interim step to continue programs through mid-March will ensure that we have the time and resources we need to get the job done."
Peterson, who previously opposed an extension, said Senate Agriculture Chair Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) recently convinced him it is the right thing to do, Reuters reports.
While the energy bill failed to cross a procedural threshold in the Senate last week, Reid tried again Thursday morning in between farm bill amendments. Thursday's procedural test failed by a 59-40 margin; Democrats needed at least 60 votes to avoid a Republican filibuster.