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Amid farm crisis, aid bill stalls as Congress starts recess

WASHINGTON — An effort to provide emergency aid for US ranchers and farmers reeling from a year of drought, frost, and other calamities collapsed Thursday as members of Congress left for their five-week summer recess, leaving a pile of unfinished legislation as they go home to campaign for reelection.

After refusing to consider a sweeping five-year farm measure, House Republican leaders jammed through a short-term, $383 million package of loans and grants for livestock producers and a limited number of farmers. The measure passed 223-197, a narrow margin for a bill that has an impact on so many states. But Democrats balked in protest about the way the farm legislation has been handled, and some Republicans objected to the costs.


Democratic leaders in the Senate, which already passed a bipartisan five-year bill, refused to take up the House measure, faulting House Republican leaders for failing to consider the broader legislation in time.

“I’m not passing a bill that only covers some producers,’’ said Senator Debbie Stabenow, a Michigan Democrat and chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee.

The failure to advance the farm bill or the emergency aid was all the more striking given the extent of the continuing drought, with county after county across the nation having been declared an agricultural disaster area.

The farm bill, which has historically appealed to members on both sides of the aisle, was one of a series of measures that fell victim to partisan fighting — and, occasionally, infighting — in recent weeks. On Thursday, a bipartisan cybersecurity bill that would have established standards for the computer systems that oversee the nation’s critical infrastructure was stopped by a filibuster as some leading Republicans yielded to the concerns of major business interests.

The renewal of a measure to protect women from domestic violence stalled and routine spending bills and tax measures were also languishing.


Despite the multiple impasses, Congress has made progress in some areas.

‘‘I think we’ve got some good things,’’ said Representative Tom Cole, an Oklahoma Republican. ‘‘We did the transportation bill, the student loan bill, but I think we could have done more.

“I would have much preferred to have a full farm bill. But we’re not going to be able to make a lot of decisions that need to be made until the American people decide who the decision makers are going to be.’’