CONGRESSIONAL FARM BILL SCHEDULE UNCLEAR

Lindsay Mitchell

Jul, 30, 2013  |  Today's News

Here at IL Corn, we keep a close-eye on what’s happening in Washington, DC. In fact, the majority of farmers we survey say that the representation we provide in our nation’s capital is the number 1 reason they’re a member of Illinois Corn Growers Association. The latest report from DC is that there isn’t an overwhelming consensus one the likelihood that Congress will pass a farm bill before the current extension expires at the end of August.

And Pete Kasperowicz reported at The Hill’s Floor Action Blog that, “House Republican leaders looking to adjourn for the August break at the end of this week could run into trouble, as members of both parties might vote against leaving to protest the lack of progress on spending measures, immigration, the budget and the farm bill.

“Failing to adjourn has the potential to create a clunky August for both the House and Senate. Unless both chambers agree to leave, both would have to hold two pro forma sessions each week throughout August — forcing a few members and several House and Senate aides to show up each day for no reason.”

The Hill article noted that, “This month is shaping up much like July 2012, when every Democrat and several dozen Republicans said the lack of a farm bill or any deal on middle class taxes meant they shouldn’t adjourn for August.”

Mr. Kasperowicz pointed out that, “This year, Democrats have already been arguing that the House should not leave without first working out budget differences with the Senate and figuring out the farm bill.

With more on the congressional calendar, see this story:

The Speaker’s Lobby: Through the Wormhole

By: Chad Pergram, FOX News

30 July 2013

The calendar reads July 30, 2013.

But the quantum Congressional calendar reads September 9….

And….

It also reads September 30, an unknown date sometime this autumn - probably in November, December 25, November 4, 2014…and, most improbably, 1995.

Like Einstein theorized, times and dates in Congress are also relative. That explains how Congress now sits at the precipice of all of those dates. It’s thanks in part to a Congressional “wormhole.” Physicists often discuss the potential for space-time bridges, known as wormholes, to serve as shortcuts between two distinct points. But political circumstances opened a wormhole on Capitol Hill between all of those dates as lawmakers begin wrestling with the fiscal conflagration which looms.

Here’s what’s at stake:

The federal government is set to run out of money on September 30, the end of the government’s fiscal year. The House and Senate need to approve 12 appropriations bills – signed by President Obama – to avoid a government shutdown. Few see a way for the sides to reach a compromise on any of the spending figures by that time. It’s possible they could create an interim appropriations bill known as a CR (short for Continuing Resolution) to keep the government open few a few weeks after September 30. But that faces trouble as an increasingly vocal GOP chorus demands that Republican leaders strike all funding for the Affordable Care Act (ACA) – or else.

Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) championed an effort which threatened to block any stopgap spending bill which funds the government without stripping all money to Obamacare.

Lee conceded over the weekend that the government wouldn’t shut down, but “the question is whether the government gets funded with Obamcare or without it.”

Heritage Action wrote to House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), urging them to eliminate funding for the health care law in any appropriations bill this fall. That letter, signed by more than 50 conservative leaders, says the House “should live up to the moment and pass a bill funding the government but denying any funding for Obamcare.”

This is the crux of the debate. Many conservatives view October 1 as the pivotal moment in the implementation of the ACA. Some feel this is the final chance to kill the health care law before it lurches into effect. One way to stop it cold in its tracks is by yanking the money.

Some Republicans hope to leverage an agreement by using the health care law to their benefit. But that comes at great peril, too. It could trigger a government shutdown on October 1, or later.

Amid this turmoil is the question of the debt ceiling. Lawmakers and the Obama Administration duked it out over the debt limit in the summer of 2011. The crisis intensified as the sides could simply not develop any legislative package which could command the votes to pass and secure Mr. Obama’s signature. And for all intents and purposes, the sides are quietly returning to those same positions which triggered the monumental impasse two years ago.

So those are the problems at hand on July 30, 2013. But bend the space-time continuum. A slip through the Congressional wormhole reveals a temporal distortion showing a calendar simultaneously reading dates of July 30, September 9, some in November, December 25, November 4, 2014 and 1995.

September 9:

Both the House and Senate are scheduled to leave Washington for five weeks starting this Friday, launching the traditional August recess. It’s likely there will be some saber-rattling this week over the fiscal altercations which await. But no one anticipates any solution. Yes, there will be fights over health care reform and the Internal Revenue Service this week. Maybe even some shenanigans from Democrats – urging the House to stay in session for August. But the Congressional calendar truly reads September 9 – the day Congress is expected to reconvene.

September 30:

Of course, September 30 is the magic day where the entire federal government could shutter if there’s no agreement on the spending bills. And if some conservatives have their way, it could be defund the health care law – or face the consequences.

Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK), a senior member of the House Appropriations Committee, characterized that gambit as a “temper tantrum” and “blackmail.”

It’s believed the sides could forge a stopgap package to forestall an immediate shutdown – but only to synch up the next target date with the day the government is expected to crash into the debt ceiling…probably sometime in November.

Sometime in November:

It’s unclear when the federal government could collide with the debt limit – the threshold which restricts Washington’s borrowing authority. But it’s believed the Treasury Department could formally call for an increase in the debt limit in November, if not before. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew appeared on a host of Sunday talk shows over the weekend to rally Congress to approve the increase without stings attached. If not, ratings agencies could downgrade the credit worthiness of the U.S. That could send the markets into a tailspin and stymie the economy. John Boehner indicated last week that he believes the best way to raise the debt ceiling is to match the size of the increase with dollar-for-dollar cuts.

That dynamic could prove problematic. The government already operates under sequestration, a set of massive, across-the-board spending cuts imposed by the debt ceiling accord of 2011. Even some Republicans question how the government could slash much more before touching entitlement spending – such as Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

Congress could vote to avoid a shutdown in September and align the spending fight with the debt ceiling brawl. Both could then ripen on whatever date Treasury says the government smashes into the debt ceiling. But with no major talks brewing and all sides mired in a cul-de-sac, the calendar effectively reads sometime in November.

December 25:

This is perhaps the scariest part of the Congressional chronology. In recent years, Congress flirted with disrupting the holiday season in ways rarely even dreamed about. But that was before a big showdown over drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in 2005, voting on Christmas Eve Day on health care reform in 2009, a fight over health benefits for 9/11 first responders in 2010, a debacle over renewing the payroll tax cut in 2011 and last year’s fiscal cliff calamity. In fact, Christmas wasn’t even the issue last time around. It was New Year’s. Vice President Biden hustled up to the Capitol for final negotiations on the fiscal cliff around 9:45 pm on December 31. The Senate voted on the package in the wee hours of January 1. The House followed suit late the next night.

Christmas also serves as a benchmark for finally solving these two fiscal issues. This holiday season could look a lot like last year’s – with consequences which are far more dire. Expect postponements of vacations, holiday celebrations, cookie exchanges and trips to the mall. Everyone on Capitol Hill dreads this scenario – yet knows it is a stark reality.

So if the wormhole calendar says it’s practically December 25, finish your Christmas shopping now. Folks on Capitol Hill aren’t going to have a lot of time to trim the tree and hang the lights come the Yuletide.

November 4, 2014:

The 2014 midterm elections seem to favor Republicans right now. It’s typical that the president’s party loses lots of Congressional seats during the second midterm elections. At this point, no one sees an obvious pathway which switches control of the House to the Democrats next year. Some scenarios even show Republicans gaining seats. The electoral maps for Senate Democrats are challenging at best. High-profile retirements of longtime Democratic veterans like Sens. Carl Levin (D-MI), Max Baucus (D-MT), Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Tim Johnson (D-SD) put those seats into play. Democrats also must defend seats held by Sens. Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Kay Hagan (D-NC), Mark Begich (D-AK) and Mark Pryor (D-AR). Some political handicappers believe it’s likely the GOP could capture control of the Senate on November 4, 2014.

Unless….

The government shuts down and the U.S. blows the debt ceiling.

Then it’s anybody’s ballgame.

“It is the sort of thing that creates a backlash and could cost the Republicans the majority in the House,” said Tom Cole, who ran the House GOP’s national political organization in 2008. “It could materially undercut the ability of the Republicans in the Senate to have the majority in 2014, which they have a decent chance to do.”

It’s doubtful the midterm political calculus could change much if the sides are able to quickly strike a fiscal agreement. But the calendar accelerates to November 4, 2014 if the government closes for any length of time and the debt ceiling debate goes haywire.

1995:

No one who worked in Washington wants to remember the showdown between President Clinton and House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA) in 1995. An imbroglio over spending triggered three separate government shutdowns that year. Clinton won in the court of public opinion. Meantime Gingrich, who rose meteorically to Speaker, was never quite the same after those battles. Those around for that period distinctly remember which side won, which side lost and why.

“If Republicans force us to the brink of another government shutdown for ideological reasons, the economy will suffer. I would suggest to an of my Republican colleagues that has this idea to give a call to Newt Gingrich,” crowed Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV). “Ask him how it worked. It was disastrous for Newt Gingrich, the Republicans and the country.”

That epic struggle unfolded 17 years ago. Yet these political circumstances make it easy to fold space-time and materialize in 1995. Longtime Capitol Hill hands hardened in federal spending fights will tell you how eerily similar 2012 feels compared to 1995.

So there are spatial rifts on the Congressional calendar. It reads July 30, 2013. But it’s simultaneously September, November, Christmas, 2014 and even 1995. Capitol Hill’s wormhole cleaves time and space and can deliver everyone to these distinct points.

Quantum physicists have yet to prove the existence of wormholes. But perhaps they should visit Capitol Hill. Then they can witness the temporal distortions which now plague Congress.