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Senate to take up farm bill in morning as Stabenow schedules news conference

The Senate is scheduled to take up the farm bill Wednesday morning at 9:30 a.m. including votes on two amendments.

But the fate of the overall bill is uncertain, and Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., has scheduled a news conference for 9:45 a.m.

There were media reports that the bill was doomed, but aides from both parties said there was still the possibility of an agreement on amendments.

The Senate apparently will begin with consideration of amendments by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., to end the sugar program and by Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., to radically change the supplemental nutrition assistance program, better known as SNAP or food stamps.

Democrats and Republicans continued to spar over procedural issues and consideration of amendments, but Stabenow said she remained optimistic about full consideration of the bill.

“I am pleased that debate will begin in earnest on the Senate floor tomorrow,” Stabenow said in a news release. “Considering two amendments on major policy issues allows the process to move forward while leaders continue to work on an agreement on the full slate of amendments that will come up for a vote.”

“Up to this point our work on the farm bill has been a glimmer of bipartisanship that is unfortunately all-too-rare in Congress today,” Stabenow said. “With more than 16 million agriculture jobs hanging in the balance, it is critical that we keep moving forward and pass a farm bill that gives American farmers and ranchers the certainty they need to continue growing the economy.

In a floor statement, Senate Major Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said “I have not given up hope, and I know that Sen. Stabenow has not given up hope, to have a universal agreement so we can really legislate on this bill.”

“As I’ve indicated, we don’t do this very often in this manner, but it’s important because we have an issue here that needs to move forward,” Reid said.

“A lot of times when the tree is filled, we walk away from it. We’re not going to walk away from this. This bill is far too important, it affects the lives of millions of people,” he said.

Senate Majority Whip Richard Durbin, D-Ill., said that the list of amendments pending include:
  • Stabenow-Roberts amendment of a perfecting nature. (#2389)
  • Reid second-degree amendment to Stabenow-Roberts amendment #2389, to change the enactment date. (#2390)
  • Reid motion to commit S. 3240 to the Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee, with instructions to report back forthwith with an amendment of a perfecting nature. (#2391)
  • Reid amendment to the Reid motion to commit #2391, to empower states with programmatic flexibility and predictability to administer a supplemental nutrition assistance block grant program under which, at the request of a state agency, eligible households within the state may receive an adequate, or more nutritious, diet. (#2392)
  • Reid second-degree amendment to Reid amendment #2392, to phase out the federal sugar program. (#2393)

Earlier, Reid sought unanimous consent for a series of votes on amendments, but Paul objected because it left out an amendment he offered that strips Pakistan of foreign aid until it releases a doctor jailed for helping the U.S. capture Osama Bin Laden.