After a long and arduous process, Congress has finally passed a farm bill that will set agricultural policy for the next five years. The bill determines how farmers will be paid subsidies for their crops and also reforms the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (more commonly known as the food stamp program). Lawmakers have been working for the better part of two years on producing a final bill. Cuts in the amount dedicated to food stamps were a major holdup, since some Republicans thought more funds should be withheld, while some Democrats thought not enough were dedicated to the program. It is estimated that the bill will save the country $23 billion, but that also depends on crop prices, which determine how much is given as subsidies to farmers.
The passage of the farm bill has taken a big item off Congress’ agenda, but there is plenty more left for them to tackle. One of the major issues many would like to see Congress dispose of is immigration reform. Many conservatives have been opposed to amnesty for illegal immigrants, but the House Republican leadership recently announced that it would support a plan that allows such immigrants to have a permanent legal status without citizenship. Although many immigrant leaders have demanded that those currently here illegally must at least eventually receive citizenship, others have suggested the would be more willing to work with Republicans.
The law establishing the current debt ceiling is set to expire later this month, and lawmakers are considering plans to provide for an additional increase. The House Republican leadership has categorically ruled out defaulting on the national debt and is currently surveying the positions of their Members. One option being considered is passing a number of resolutions in favor of their preferred policies along with a debt ceiling increase; the Senate would then have to vote on those additional resolutions, but could reject them separately while still passing the increase.
The magnificent Capitol Dome will be undergoing major repairs over the next two years, and work is just getting under way. Temporary fencing has gone up around the Capitol, and items for the project have recently been delivered to the worksite.
And for our latest blog post: Flattening the Rules: The Implications of the Senate’s Nuclear Option