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House Democrats call for disaster relief vote this week

Agriculture.com Staff 09/27/2006 @ 8:35am

A group of Democratic members of the House of Representatives, including the ranking Democrat on the Agriculture Committee, Collin Peterson, Tuesday called for a vote on disaster aid before the House adjourns at the end of this week.

"It's wrong to keep the farmers and their bankers guessing as to whether or not there’s going to be a bill," said Representative Mike Ross of Arkansas. He and Peterson were joined by Representatives Earl Pomery of North Dakota, John Barrow of Georgia, Bob Etheridge of North Carolina and Marion Berry of Arkansas.

With the support of Democratic leadership in the House, they've introduced a discharge petition that would force the House to vote on disaster aid. So far, the Republican leadership of the House has not allowed a vote on the issue, even though some influential members of their own party, including Henry Bonilla of Texas, have also called for drought aid. Bonilla chairs the House Agricultural Appropriations Subcommittee.

The administration has objected to the fact that some aid in bills introduced in the Senate would go to farmers not in areas hit by drought this year or last year.

Peterson said "they're raising those issues just to muddy up the waters.

"We stand ready to work with them to craft a bill to get the aid to people that need it," he said.

The petition must be signed by 218 House members to force a vote. Peterson said he expects all but two or three Democrats to sign it. With 201 Democrats in the House, the petition needs Republican signatures to succeed by Friday, when the House is expected to vote to adjourn for campaigning for the November election.

As of late Tuesday, the Clerk of the House listed 66 signatures, all Democrats.

Mary Kay Thatcher, a lobbyist for the American Farm Bureau Federation, says her group supports the discharge petition, along with more than 30 other farm and ag-related organizations.

"I think there are some Republicans that are in disaster areas that are going to be pressured to sign," she said. "Whether or not we get to 218, I don't know. But if we get close, this shows this is important."

The petition could be signed after the election when Congress returns for a lame-duck session. But Thatcher said the session could be very short, making chances of passing any relief more difficult.

A group of Democratic members of the House of Representatives, including the ranking Democrat on the Agriculture Committee, Collin Peterson, Tuesday called for a vote on disaster aid before the House adjourns at the end of this week.

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