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View From the Hill: Tell your Representative to sign the petition

By Grace Boatright, National Grange Legislative Director (View From The Hill Blog 9/14/12)

  SEPTEMBER 14, 2012 --

Yesterday the House passed a six-month, $1.047 trillion federal spending bill to keep the government from shutting down at the end of the fiscal year, September 30th. It adds about $8 billion in spending. Ironically, the House passed it to avoid having to talk about the need to cut spending. You can’t make this up people. The Senate will consider it, or something like it, next week before they leave town.

At this point, Congress is thinking several things. First, they don’t want to get into any hardcore, controversial debates so close to the elections. It seems the only thing they can agree on is that they all want to keep their jobs. Personally, I think it’s great that they can find any common ground. Many of them are also thinking that, depending on how things turn out in November, it might not be their problem to deal with anymore and they’re happy to say; “good luck freshmen, this mess isn’t my problem anymore.”

So where does this leave us…us being American agriculture and the people who put food on the tables of all the fancy restaurants these guys like to frequent.

The Farm Bill is still stalled in the House, exactly where House leadership wants it. Let me be clear: this is the fault of House leadership. The Senate passed their version in June and the House Agriculture Committee passed theirs in July. There’s no reason not to bring it up for a vote now. You see, just because they bring it up for a vote doesn’t mean it will get passed. They need to bring it up for a vote to begin deliberations on it and start hammering out the details. The House and Senate versions are quite different and there’s bound to be some major disagreements about things like cuts to SNAP. You know as well as I do that those things take time…lots of time usually.

We’re not completely out of options though (thank you 71st Congress). Yesterday, Congressman Bruce Braley (D-IA) filed a discharge petition on the 2012 Farm Bill. If he can gather 218 signatures, or a House majority, he can force a vote on the Farm Bill, virtually overriding House leadership’s authority.

This discharge petition is interesting to me on several levels. For starters, it’s the first one I’ve encountered in my legislative career (that doesn’t say too much, I’m not that old). Second, and most importantly, this is going to reveal just who is in favor of the Farm Bill, who really cares about seeing it brought to the floor, and who cares more about their constituents than avoiding controversy before the elections. As of this moment, there are only 53 signatures. You can see who has signed it and when here: http://clerk.house.gov/112/lrc/pd/petitions/DisPet0005.xml

If you don’t see your representative’s name, then you need to call their office and tell them to do so. Don’t suggest it. DEMAND IT!! Current programs from the 2008 Farm Bill expire in 16 days, and Congress leaves town next week to go campaigning all of October. You need to do this now!! They all have emails and answering machines- call or email over the weekend and tell them to get to work on this first thing Monday. You can find their contact info here: http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/.

I’ll keep you posted as things develop next week…or hopefully develop. Have a good weekend everybody.

-Grace Boatright
National Grange Legislative Director

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