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Public Statements

The Farm Bill

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. REID. Mr. President, I have often said that Speaker Boehner has a hard job. That was obvious last week when the House Republican caucus revolted to defeat the Speaker's farm bill. Even though the Speaker took the unusual step of announcing his support for the measure ahead of the vote, this bill went down in flames. It was the first time the House of Representatives has defeated a farm bill since the program was created in the 1930s.

I admit I was sorry to hear the House Republican leadership blame the bill's defeat on Democrats, but I was not surprised. They had to blame someone. They could not blame themselves, even though they should. It was no surprise that House Democrats opposed this mean-spirited bill. The legislation would cut $20 billion from the safety net that keeps millions of Americans, including millions of children, from going hungry every year. That is what it was about. The farm bill eliminated 8 billion meals for hungry American families and children. That is what the House bill did. So it is no surprise that Democrats did not vote for a bill that whacked America's most vulnerable citizens.

We have seen this film before. The Speaker should have known he could not pass legislation that amounts to a partisan love note to the tea party. He will be forced to take up a more bipartisan measure. He should do it now. There is no need to reinvent the wheel. The Senate has already done the work that was necessary to be done. We passed a good bipartisan bill. The Speaker should dispense with the drama and the delay and take up the Senate farm bill now. The bill passed on an overwhelming bipartisan vote in this Chamber. In fact, it did twice. We passed it last year. The Speaker refused to bring up the bill in the House. Passing the Senate farm bill will create jobs, will reduce the deficit by some $23 billion, and it will make important reforms to both farm and food stamp programs without balancing the budget on the backs of hungry Americans.

I spoke over the weekend to Tom Vilsack, the Secretary of Agriculture. We agreed that maintaining the status quo is not an option. Doing nothing means no reform, no deficit reduction, and no certainty for America's 16 million farm industry workers.

I want everyone within the sound of my voice as well as my colleagues on the other side of the Capitol to know that the Senate will not pass another temporary farm bill extension. It is time for real reform that protects both rural farm communities and urban families who need help feeding their children.

If the Speaker took up the Senate's bipartisan measure, it would easily pass the House with both Republican and Democratic votes. There is no shame in passing a bill that moderates in both parties support. We have seen time and time again that the tea party's ``my way or the highway'' approach to legislating does not work. The only way to pass a bill in either the House or the Senate is to do so with votes from both Democrats and Republicans. The Senate farm bill passed with 66 votes in this Chamber. It was a perfect example of a bipartisan bill. The Speaker should allow a vote on this measure in the House now--today.

The immigration bill before the Senate is another example of bipartisan legislation. The immigration bill will pass this Chamber with Democratic and Republican votes. When the immigration bill passes, the Speaker should quickly bring it up for a vote in the House of Representatives.

So I say, Mr. Speaker, rather than twisting the arms of tea party extremists, work with moderates in both parties to pass bipartisan legislation. Mr. Speaker, rather than trying to force legislation designed to please only the right wing, you should take away the obstacles we have and take the easy way out, actually. Do the right thing. Seek votes from Democrats and Republicans. America deserves the commonsense approach. That is what we used to do. We should do it once again.

I suggest the absence of a quorum.


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