Reid Calls for Closing Farm Bill Debate

While the energy bill has been stalled, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has called for cloture (closure) on Farm Bill debate in order to hastily enact the legislation.

That’s the latest from E&E Daily (subs. req’d), printed in full below — for more on the energy/environmental provisions in the farm bill, see here and here):

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) attempted to start the clock yesterday for the Senate to complete the farm bill by filing for a cloture vote that would cut off further debate.

Reid filed for cloture yesterday after threatening to stop work altogether on the farm bill. The cloture request will ripen Friday morning, at which point the Senate could proceed to a vote on whether or not to cut off debate, unless the two parties have reached a different compromise at that point.

If Reid has the 60 votes necessary to pass cloture, it would allow for another 30 hours of debate before final passage. Any amendment would have to be relevant to the bill.

Reid said he is “confident virtually every Democratic senator” would vote for cloture. Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) said the move was “a necessary effort to enact a new farm bill.” If the vote is successful, it could leave little opportunity for other senators to change the bill that came out of committee.

“If we did nothing more than pass the bill that came out of committee, we would be way ahead of the game,” Reid said in comments on the floor last night.

The move to cut off debate came after Reid and other Democrats charged Republicans with making little progress in limiting the number of amendments they would allow for the five-year, $286 billion legislation.

“We’ll find out if Republicans are going to kill this bill. It appears they’re going to,” Reid said in comments on the Senate floor yesterday.

Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) dismissed Reid’s threats to throw out the bill as part of the political dance of the Senate.

“I’m sure anybody who has followed the Senate at all knows we’re going to pass a farm bill — no question about that. The farm bill is not going to be killed,” McConnell said. “The issue is whether we’re going to have any kind of reasonable process for going forward.”

McConnell expressed confidence that the ongoing feud would end with “a reasonable number of amendments on both sides” and eventually lead to final passage.

After Reid filed for cloture, McConnell asked him to limit the “universe” of amendments up for negotiation to the more than 250 that have already been filed. Both senators agreed, calling it a “baby step” toward coming to agreement on amendments for the bill.

The two parties have been in a gridlock for over a week about amendments to the bill. Reid wants to select certain amendments that are “relevant” to the bill, but Republicans do not want him to control what they can offer.

The two parties appeared to break some ground in the stalemate on Tuesday when McConnell agreed to exchange a list of amendments, but Reid said yesterday the list was too lengthy.

There are more than 250 pending amendments to the farm bill, according to Reid, including an amendment to limit Exxon-Valdez litigation from Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), as well as proposals on the renewable fuels standard and contentious immigration issues.

Republicans said that Democrats have offered just as many amendments as they have. They complained that Reid was trying to shut them out of an extensive bill that they think needs more vetting. Democrats also filed unrelated amendments to the bill, according to Senate aides, including proposals on immigration visas.
“We need to get this bill done,” Reid said on the floor last night. “We could still complete the bill before we leave here. If we couldn’t complete the bill before we leave for Thanksgiving, we could get it teed up so we can finish it in a day or two when we come back.”

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