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Senators put pressure on House to pass farm bill

By JERRY HAGSTROM

After the Senate passed the farm bill today in an atmosphere of extraordinary bipartisan cooperation, Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., ranking member Pat Roberts, R-Kan., and others began putting pressure on the House Agriculture Committee and the full House to pass a bill.

At a news conference after the bill was approved on a vote of 64 to 35, Stabenow said she was now turning to her House colleagues. “I call on the leadership in the House to work with them as the Senate leadership worked with us.”

Roberts, a former House Agriculture Committee chairman, also said that he would be calling House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., but did not elaborate on what he would say to them.

But Roberts was one of the most outspoken senators in praising the speed and bipartisanship with which the bill sailed through the Senate. He noted that the bill went through committee in four and a half hours and through the Senate in two and a half days. Roberts said the Senate had functioned in regular order on the farm bill in a way that he has not seen in the last three years, and that it was a signal that “in the middle of an election year we can get something done.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said Stabenow and Roberts had risen to the occasion of leadership. After the bill passed, Reid said he had noted, “It is 2 o’clock in the afternoon, not 2 o’clock in the morning." Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said that this had been “one of the finest moments in the Senate in recent times in terms of passing a bill.”

Stabenow said she would not set “artificial dates” for the completion of the bill, but added that when the current farm bill expires on Sept. 30 there are “looming disastrous results after that.”

“We’ll work with whatever is handed us,” Stabenow said. But she said she believes the conference could go quickly because she, Roberts, House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., and House Agriculture ranking member Collin Peterson, D-Minn., worked together so well on the proposal that they sent to the supercommittee on deficit reduction in December.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., said, “I expect the teamwork to continue when the House takes up the bill. In respect to Montana, this is a jobs bill.”

Baucus also said that the bill, which would save $23.6 billion over 10 years compared with the continuation of current programs, “is a good precedent for sarting to reduce the deficit.”

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., a former Agriculture committee chairman and ranking member, noted that he had been in the same position as both Stabenow and Roberts and had never seen the farm bill move so quickly. He also called on the House to act.