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Reid sets strategy for unpopular amendments

Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev.

Sen. Harry Reid


By JERRY HAGSTROM

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., appears to have settled on a short-term strategy of allowing Republicans to bring up the amendments that would be the most unpopular in the Senate and guaranteed to be killed.

The Senate adjourned about 7 p.m. and Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, speaking for the leadership, said that negotiations on an amendment package were continuing and that the Senate would convene Thursday at 9:30 a.m.

The Senate debated and rejected an amendment sponsored by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., and others to end the sugar program and an amendment sponsored by Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., to turn the food stamp program into a block grant to the states as House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., had proposed.

The Coalition for Sugar Reform, which represents industrial sweetener users, said it was disappointed by the 50-to-46 vote against the sugar reform proposal, but added, “We are encouraged that on a bipartisan basis, nearly half the Senate clearly sees the need to debate and reform current U.S. sugar policy.”

The coalition noted it supports another Shaheen amendment that would roll back some sugar provisions of the 2008 farm bill.

The American Sugar Alliance, which represents beet and cane growers, said “Today’s vote to reject an amendment that would have repealed U.S. sugar policy is great news for taxpayers and grocery shoppers as well as the country’s food security. As many senators noted, the current system operates without taxpayer expense and U.S. grocery shoppers enjoy prices that are well below the world average.”

The Senate voted 65 to 33 to table or kill Paul’s amendment to turn food stamps into a block grant to the states.

The 33 Republican senators who voted to keep the amendment alive were mostly conservative Southern and Mountain state senators, but they also included several — Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, Charles Grassley of Iowa, Jerry Moran of Kansas and John Thune of South Dakota — who have long been supporters of the program and know its role in passage of the farm bill, particularly in the House where urban legislators have no direct interest in the farm bill except for nutrition programs.

Reid proposed to bring up a package of four other amendments, but Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., objected.

Instead, Reid brought up an amendment to eliminate certain working lands conservation programs and one sponsored by Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., to convert all mandatory spending to discretionary spending. No vote was held on either amendment.