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The House is out of session this week. The Senate is in and will resume consideration of a farm bill. They will also debate one of the most controversial judicial nominees of the session.
The Senate's version of a farm bill is a five-year extension loaded with waste. S. 3240 is titled the Agriculture Reform, Food, and Jobs Act, yet there is little reform and no jobs to be had in this act of crony capitalism. This bill is estimated to cost $969 billion over the next decade by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO).
Compare this to the last five year farm bill that only cost $604 billion. This is a massive 60% increase over the last farm bill, yet because of government budget gimmicks, politicians use CBO scoring to argue that it is a multi-billion dollar reduction in spending. Only in Washington could a 60% increase in funding be called a spending cut.
By far, the most expensive title in the farm bill is the section containing food stamps. The food stamp reauthorization doles out over $750 billion over 10 years for recipients of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). This is a program that has doubled in participation during the Obama Administration and is the fourth largest welfare program on the books. The dramatic increase in cost to the taxpayer from food stamps is not the result of a bad economy. It is caused by states bulking up welfare rolls and a massive agriculture lobby who is pressuring Congress to put more money in their pockets.
The Senate is expected to be on the farm bill for a few weeks. The House has yet to move forward on a House approach to farming policy. There are more reforms and cuts expected to be included in the House version of the bill.
A very controversial nominee is expected to face significant opposition in the Senate today. The nomination of Andrew David Hurwitz to be justice on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals is in danger of defeat. Hurwitz has drawn the opposition of many conservative groups, because of his proud association with a court case that provided the ideological basis for Roe v. Wade, the decision that declared abortion a constitutional right.
According to National Right to Life, "in 1972, Hurwitz was a clerk to Jon O. Newman, a U.S. District Judge for the District of Connecticut. During the time that Hurwitz was Newman’s clerk, Newman issued a sweeping ruling that struck down a recently enacted Connecticut law that prohibited abortion except to save the life of mother." This decision created a new constitutional doctrine "under which prohibitions on abortion prior to 'viability”' would be deemed to be violations of a constitutional 'right to privacy.” Hurwitz himself wrote in the N.Y. Law School Law Review that the decision he helped write heavily influenced the Supreme Court.
Even though the House is out this week, expect more negotiations and blame for the lack of movement on a transportation bill, student loan interest rate bill and the Violence Against Women Act. Expect this week in Washington to be full of pork and blame, with a side of radical constitutional thought.
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