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Senate refuses to vote on farm bill

Agriculture.com Staff 11/16/2007 @ 1:30pm

Friday, the Senate failed to get the 60 votes needed to end debate on its farm bill and begin a short 30-hour consideration of relevant amendments.

Democrats, who have a 51-vote majority, picked up support from four Republicans, Senators Norm Coleman of Minnesota, Chuck Grassley of Iowa, Gordon Smith of Oregon and John Thune of South Dakota.

But the 55 votes in favor of cloture, or ending debate, weren't enough. There were 42 votes against cloture, all from Republicans. Republicans John Cornyn of Texas, Trent Lott of Mississippi and John McCain of Arizona did not vote.

Speaking on the floor just before the vote, Agriculture Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) urged his Republican colleagues to vote for cloture.

"No one will be denied a vote on an amendment to the farm bill as long as it is relevant and germane," Harkin said. "If they want to add a Christmas tree ornament dealing with immigration or foreign relations or the war in Iraq or something, you're right, they're out after cloture. They won't be able to offer that.

"But that comes down to the fact, do you want a farm bill or not?" he added. "Do you want a farm bill or not? It's too important to allow a small minority or the White House, maybe people here bowing from pressure from the White House, to hold it up indefinitely. We're falling behind. If we get cloture, we can move ahead aggressively. We can come back after the Thanksgiving recess, spend about two or three days, three days on the farm bill and be over with it. We can send a bill to the White House. It won't happen if we don't get cloture. If we don't get cloture, my friends, there probably won't be any farm bill."

Harkin then entered into the record letters supporting cloture from 185 groups, ranging from food banks to National Farmers Union and the National Milk Producers Federation. Another 62 groups urged the Senate to take "expedited action." That group included the American Farm Bureau Federation to the American Soybean Association, to the National Association of Wheat Growers and the Cotton Council.

After the defeat of cloture, the ranking Republican on the Senate Agriculture Committee, Senator Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, released this statement:

"Let it be known that the Majority Leader shut down the farm bill debate last week, by offering amendments so that no one else can, well before the process even started. I have urged the other side to work with us to come up with a reasonable compromise -- the Democrats are choosing which amendments will be offered to this bill by using parliamentary practices, which is simply not agreeable to my Republican colleagues and me. Despite the progress we made, the majority still refuses to dismantle their strategy to block a full debate on the farm bill. Our farmers and ranchers deserve a good farm bill and it is our duty to produce the best possible framework we can that strengthens the food and energy security of the United States."

Friday, the Senate failed to get the 60 votes needed to end debate on its farm bill and begin a short 30-hour consideration of relevant amendments.

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