farm bill: action as deadline nears
House leaders said they were working with their Senate counterparts toward a new five-year farm bill, just days after the House pushed through a bill that would slash billions of dollars from the food stamp program.
But with only a few days left before the farm bill expires at the end of the fiscal year, and with a fight over the debt ceiling looming, few lawmakers see any chance of getting a new farm bill done. Last year, Congress voted to extend the current farm bill, which was passed in 2008. Although the bill expires Monday, most farm programs will continue until the end of the year because such programs extend through the crop year.
The bill has been mired in partisan gridlock for nearly two years. Most of the acrimony has been over cuts to the food stamp program, with House Republicans pushing for nearly $40 billion in cuts and Democrats vowing to protect the program.
immigration: New push for debate
House Democratic leaders are working on a broad immigration proposal that they hope will reinvigorate the debate on Capitol Hill and pressure their Republican counterparts to pass legislation that includes a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million immigrants already in the country illegally.
With an immigration overhaul languishing in the GOP-controlled House, Rep. Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic leader, began working with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, as well as with Rep. Xavier Becerra, D-Calif., the chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, to put forth an alternative bill. Though no final decisions have been made, aides familiar with the strategy said, Democratic leadership hopes to introduce the bill in the next few weeks.
keystone: will it be bargaining chip?
Environmental activists say they are increasingly alarmed that the Keystone XL pipeline might become a bargaining chip in last-minute negotiations between Republicans and President Obama to avert a fiscal crisis. If built, the pipeline would carry millions of gallons of crude oil from Alberta, Canada, to U.S. refineries on the Gulf Coast.
Republicans who support the pipeline have signaled that they intend to demand approval of a permit for its construction in exchange for their willingness to support Obama and raise the nation’s debt ceiling next month.