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Agriculture Reform, Food, and Jobs Act of 2013--Continued--

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Ms. STABENOW. Mr. President, I thank my friend. Before the Senator proceeds with his unanimous consent request, I would ask the Senator if he would agree that when we brought the farm bill to the floor the last time, we had 73 votes and it was done in a large agreement, but we worked through every one of them. I agree. My preference is--as I know our distinguished ranking member's preference is--to be able to work through amendments and to have votes and so on. Would the Senator agree that process worked last time--and I know my friend did not end up voting for the final bill, but we did work through a process of 73 votes; it was a very long day or 2 days, I think, actually--and that would be a good way to proceed on this bill?


Ms. STABENOW. Mr. President, I certainly yield back to my friend, but I just want to indicate that is what we have been working on doing, and we do, in fact, have objections from various Members for various reasons. But we have been spending our time hoping to come up with--even postcloture it would be our desire to come up with a finite list of amendments that we could then move forward and get an agreement to vote on because I am very happy to have additional votes on the bill.


Ms. STABENOW. I have good news for the Senator. On page 309 of the bill, based on the fact that we took the amendments from last time, his language is in the bill. It was part of the 73 amendments that were offered. As I indicated earlier, we included everything that was, in fact, passed by the Senate on the floor last time so that people would know that their amendments were included in the bill. There was one exception to that, which was the Coburn-Durbin amendment, which was, in fact, revoted on and is now a part of the bill. But I refer the Senator to page 309, section 2610, ``Adjusted Gross Income Limitation For Conservation Programs.'' So the Senator is correct. It was passed last time. And the good news is that it is in the bill.


Ms. STABENOW. Mr. President, if I might, I say to the Senator, we will work with you and look at the intent, and it is the intent. I would also just in passing indicate that hopefully we will have an opportunity, as we come to a universe of amendments, as we did last year, to have the Senator's previous amendment that he talked about, which is also one that I support.

So as we work through this, again, what we need to do is what we did last time: to come up with a universe--it can be large or small--and in the interest of time make sure a variety of Senators have the opportunity to offer different amendments as well--not just one or two Senators but that a number of Senators have the opportunity to--and hopefully Members will be willing to come together and put together a list that includes Senator Landrieu's flood insurance amendment, which is absolutely critical. We have other amendments. Senator Grassley has an amendment we have been working on to pair with Senator Landrieu's that we would like very much to put together. I would be very interested in including Senator Coburn's amendment No. 1003, which he talked about previously, because I think it makes sense.

So right now we are at a point where we just have to get people positively working together on a list that we can move through together. But the good news is, I say to Senator Coburn, the one you are speaking about, I believe, is as you had offered it last time. But we will be happy to work with the Senator.


Ms. STABENOW. I realize the Senator from Oklahoma has the floor and he wishes to continue with his amendments.

I wish to speak to all the Members who are on the floor as well as those who are in their offices, because, as everyone knows--again, to hearken back to the last time around we did this--we had 73 amendments. Not all of them took a recorded vote, but we did come up with a finite list. It was 73. It was a big list, but we came up with a list.

That is what we are trying to do now. We have been working with colleagues. We want that list. No one wants that more than I and Senator Cochran--to come up with a group of amendments, so everyone knows what we will be voting on so we can begin to move through that.

I indicated we had included in the bill the amendments we had voted on the floor the last time. I did make one error that my staff reminded me of. There was one we did vote on that is not in here, which was the amendment of Senator McCain on catfish. That was not included, in deference to those who had objected. But everything else that was of substance, as I understand, is in the underlying bill.

I also do want to note the distinguished Senator from Oklahoma did have a significant amendment that came very early in this process. In fact, it was one I did not support, but he won his amendment. We could have blocked it. I could have objected, because I don't support the policy, but I did not do that. So the Senator's amendment did pass, even though I voted no and do not support it. So from my perspective, as the chair of the committee, I am happy to have debate. I am happier when I win than when I lose, but I am happy to have debate.

We want to put together a universe of amendments. Right now we don't, at this point, have time to go through 150 amendments. So we have to find out what is a priority for everyone, put together a finite list, and we are going to continue to work on that. If the majority leader files cloture, we can still continue to do that. We can put together a finite list, vitiate the cloture vote, and move to a vote on a group of amendments.

That would be my preference. I know it would be the preference of Senator Cochran as well. So we are going to continue to work on that, whether cloture is filed or not--see if we can't come together with a group of amendments and, hopefully, we will be able to get that done. That is my preference on how to do a bill. We will continue to attempt to make that happen.

I appreciate the time allotted, with the Senator from Oklahoma yielding to me, and we will continue to work with him as well as all Members to move to a place where we can have an opportunity for amendments to be offered in a timely manner to get the bill done.


Ms. STABENOW. Reserving the right to object, that is, unfortunately, an unrealistic motion from my perspective. We have to work with Members. Many Members, including the Senator who is speaking, have multiple amendments and we need to get a list of priorities from people so we have a smaller list we can work with to get this done in a timely manner.

So I object at this point. I would like very much to see us get together a list but to do this in a way where some Members have many amendments and others have very few----


Ms. STABENOW. Let me first say that if I am hearing the Senator right, he will work with us to move forward on a unanimous consent request on a list of amendments. I certainly would welcome his doing that.

I also do need to indicate we spent last week and this week moving amendments. We started moving amendments. The Senator's was one of the very first ones we did vote on. We have been working together today, trying to move in small groups amendments to be able to get things moving, now facing objections as we do that. But we did have the opportunity to do a number of amendments last week and have moved forward to vote on some. We will continue to do that with colleagues. That is our intent.

Again, if my friend will remember, this is the second time around for us. We have already done this once. We are back doing it again. We want to get it done. We want to have the opportunity for people to offer more amendments.


Ms. STABENOW. Reserving the right to object, let me indicate, as the manager of this bill, I appreciate the advice we are receiving from the Senator from Oklahoma, and we will certainly look forward to working with him and receiving his advice. We are managing the bill on the floor. We appreciate very much the efforts of the Senator to come down and move things in the direction he wishes. We will continue to manage this bill in a way that is fair and open and work with all of our colleagues and look forward to getting this done.

I would--also reserving the right to object--indicate we have a bill in front of us that affects 16 million people and their jobs. We have a bill that is $24 billion in deficit reduction, unlike any other bill that has come before us in bipartisan deficit reduction. We have a bill in front of us that has eliminated 100 different authorizations or programs because of duplication, which I know is near and dear to the heart of the Senator from Oklahoma.

We have a bill right now worthy of voting on and passing. We will continue to work with all of our colleagues to move this forward to get this done on behalf of the 16 million men and women who work in agriculture. We will certainly take his ideas under consideration as we move forward to manage this bill.

I object.


Ms. STABENOW. Madam President, I absolutely understand Senator Merkley's concerns about the issue and the concerns of many people about this issue. There has been a long-running understanding that we should not be legislating on appropriations, and I share the concern of my colleague that the Agriculture Committee and other appropriate committees didn't have an opportunity to engage in this debate.

As the Senator from Oregon knows, this language was included in the continuing resolution, the bill that funds the government, and that bill will expire on September 30 of this year. I agree with my colleague; we should not extend that provision through the appropriations process. We should have the same type of full and transparent process that both Senator Merkley and I have talked about today.

I wish to assure my friend that I think it would be inappropriate for that language to be adopted in a conference committee or otherwise adopted in a manner designed to bypass open debate in the relevant committees and this Chamber.

I will do my best to oppose any effort to add this kind of extension in the conference committee on this farm bill or to otherwise extend it without appropriate legislative examination.


Ms. STABENOW. Madam President, I thank the Senator from Oregon for his advocacy on so many important policies in this legislation. We worked together closely on forest fires. Senator Merkley and I have been on the phone many times. He wanted to make sure I was aware of what has happened to farmers, homeowners, and landowners in Oregon.

We share a great interest in so many areas as it relates to our organic growers and rural development as well as what is happening in terms of energy efficiency, and, as my friend mentioned, rural electric co-ops.

I thank Senator Merkley for his leadership in many areas, and I look forward to working with the Senator from Oregon as we bring the farm bill to a final vote.


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