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This Week in Washington: Cleaning the Farm Bill

This Week in Washington: Cleaning the Farm Bill

This week Congress returns for a busy session that will last until the week of The 4th of July.  The Senate will continue work on the massive farm/food stamp bill and will commence work on yet another bill to expand government-subsidized student loans.  Finally, ahead of next week’s consideration of the amnesty bill in the Senate, Republicans will have a unique opportunity to force Obama’s hand on immigration enforcement when they debate the annual funding bill for the Department of Homeland Security.

Farm Bill – Before breaking for recess, the Senate began work on the 5-year farm bill, S. 954.  The Senate bill costs $955 billion over 10 years and creates a new shallow loss program covering up to 90% of a farmer’s income – on the taxpayer dime.  Roughly 80% of the cost is related to food stamps. Unfortunately, the bill has strong bipartisan support, and is assured passage in the Senate. The real battle will commence in the House where the bill is expected to come to the floor later this month.

The key element to passing massive farm bills over the years was the inclusion of food stamps in the package. This allows members from rural and urban districts to “logroll” and trade their votes in exchange for each other’s special interest. The way to break this cycle is by separating the two elements, and demanding that each one stand on its own merit  Rep. Paul Broun is requesting signatories for a letter to Speaker Boehner asking for Food Stamps to be separated out from this year’s Farm Bill before it comes to the floor for a vote. Please ask your member of Congress to sign the Broun letter.

Student Loans –  Last month, the House passed a bill to allow the interest rates on subsidized Stafford student loans to rise with the 10-year Treasury note when the reduced rate is set to expire next month.The bill, H.R. 1911, would require interest rates for all federal student loans to be pegged to the 10-year Treasury note plus 2.5 percent for undergraduate degrees and 4.5 percent for graduate degrees.  With current rates hovering around 1.9%, the student loan interest rates would rise modestly to 4.4%, still well below the 6.8% level that they were offered for many years before the Pelosi Congress cut them in half.

While this bill failed to offer real reforms in weaning big education off of government subsidies and ending the education bubble created by such interventions, it is far better than the Democrat bill. Some time this week, the Senate plans to take up, S. 953, which would extend the 3.4% rate for yet another 2 years. They plan to pay for the $12 billion cost by, you guessed it, raising taxes on corporations. Democrats lack the fortitude to permanently keep the rate this low; they would rather come back every two years and seize the righteous indignation against those who desire an end to the education bubble. Republicans should vote no on the motion to proceed with debate. They should also begin pushing for privatization of the student loan business, which was completely nationalized as part of an addendum to Obamacare in 2010.

Appropriations – On Wednesday, the House will begin the FY 2014 appropriations process when it brings the first two bills to the floor for consideration – Military/Construction-Veterans Affairs and Homeland Security. The Homeland Security bill funds all of the operations for the agencies under the auspices of the Department of Homeland Security, providing Republicans with a unique opportunity to strike out against Obama’s refusal to enforce our immigration laws. While it is hard to legislate anything that will force the hand of an administration that willfully nullifies the separation of powers, here are a few things they can tack onto the DHS bill:

  • If significant progress is not made in constructing the border fence, pursuant to the Secure Fence Act, the salaries of top officials in DHS will be cut
  • Defund Obama’s illegal DACA
  • Cut salaries for major department officials if the 287(g) program is not reinstated.
  • Cut salaries for major department officials unless they reinstate the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS), which will help protect against security threats who come in on student or worker visas

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