WASHINGTON — When Congress returns this week, its members will be met not by the Code Pink antiwar protesters or the Tea Party supporters who often gathered near the Capitol last year. Instead, farmers will be out in force, rallying for a bill that lawmakers failed to pass before they recessed five weeks ago.
The fate of the current farm bill, which expires at the end of the month, has preoccupied many voters in agricultural states and has haunted lawmakers at constituent meetings, debates, and fairs. In South Dakota, the farm bill was the central topic at a recent debate between Representative Kristi Noem and her Democratic challenger, Matt Varilek.
Over the summer, the Senate passed a bipartisan five-year farm bill that the House declined to take up. House leaders also refused to consider their own Agriculture Committee’s sweeping farm measure, instead pushing through a short-term $383 million package of loans and grants for livestock producers and a limited number of farmers. Senate leaders declined to take action on that measure because they said it was too limited, a view shared by many farmers.
Speaker John Boehner, an Ohio Republican, lacks enough votes to pass a bill because Democrats dislike the $16 billion in cuts to nutrition programs, including food stamps, in the House committee’s bill. And many conservative Republicans would like to see more cuts overall in the measure.
According to news reports in South Dakota and Iowa, members of Congress have told constituents that they anticipate a one-year extension of the current bill. But officials said last week that there was no clear path to passage.
On Wednesday, the National Farmers Union and the American Farm Bureau Federation will hold a rally near the Capitol to press for the approval of a bill. A devastating drought over the summer has inflated commodities prices and ruined many crops, particularly corn in the Midwest. “I have heard a pretty steady drumbeat that members of Congress are hearing from farm families who are making it clear we need to get a farm bill done,’’ said Dale Moore, the deputy executive director of the American Farm Bureau Federation. - NEW YORK TIMES
Obama gets a lift from Republican businessman in battleground state
FORT PIERCE, Fla. — If President Obama wanted a lift in Florida, he got one from Scott Van Duzer. The 46-year-old, 6-foot-3-inch Republican gave Obama a bear hug, raising him off the ground as Obama marveled at the man’s strength and enthusiasm.
Van Duzer owns the Big Apple Pizza and Pasta Italian Restaurant where Obama stopped Sunday during a Florida bus swing. He also runs a foundation that helps collect blood for the ill; he has received White House commendations for his work.
As he entered, Obama admired Van Duzer’s biceps, saying ‘‘Look at these guns!’’
Said Obama: ‘‘The guy’s just got a big heart, along with big pecs.’’
Of his embrace, Van Duzer said: ‘‘I was overwhelmed when I saw him.’’
He said Obama had his vote. - ASSOCIATED PRESS
In Fla., Obama backs space research, says rival would raise Medicare costs
MELBOURNE, Fla. — President Obama defended his commitment to space research and told future retirees they will see Medicare costs rise and benefits suffer if Republican Mitt Romney is elected.
On the second day of a two-day bus tour through the battleground state, Obama targeted voting blocs in eastern Florida that are tied to the Space Coast economy around the Kennedy Space Center and to senior citizens.
“I will never turn Medicare into a voucher,” Obama told a crowd of 3,050 at a technology institute in Melbourne, along the Space Coast.
Obama cited analysis by Harvard University professor David Cutler that says the Medicare reforms favored by Romney and Paul Ryan will translate to $16 billion to $26 billion in new profit for insurers by the end of the next decade.
“Your costs would rise by thousands so that their profits could rise by millions,” Obama said.
Romney’s campaign disputed the study. Campaign spokesman Ryan Williams said Obama was relying on “discredited” analyses and “outright falsehoods.”
Obama told the audience in Melbourne, a region frustrated by job losses from the last year’s end of the manned space shuttle program, that his administration has “begun an ambitious new direction” for NASA that will create jobs in the area.
The decision to end the shuttle program was made under President George W. Bush and completed under Obama. - BLOOMBERG NEWS