politics


Many of you have asked about my friend, the farm bill. As you know, the farm bill and I have had a sordid affair for the past year or two.

When we last left the farm bill, it was on the verge of its passage before Congress left town last Memorial Day, and we had just discovered that part of the bill was missing.

First of all, you should know that Congress still sends bills to the president on parchment for him to sign (or veto, as the case may be). A little over two dozen of those precious parchment pages were missing when Bush put his big red “x” on the farm bill (I am pretty sure that is *not* how he actually vetoes, but that is how I imagine it.)

The missing pages meant the veto — and thus the override — would be incomplete. Since Bush only vetoed part of the bill, they would only enact part of the bill.

But that did not stop lawmakers, who were pressed against yet-another deadline for the expiration of current farm programs. Quite frankly, I suspect they were sick of the farm bill and just wanted to be done with the dang thing. (Or as close to finishing as they could. ) So, the House and Senate went ahead and both approved the pretty-much-farm-bill-override with healthy margins.

They made 13/14ths of the farm bill law. End of story. Mostly.

Lawmakers return to DC this week, and they still have to figure out some way to clean up the mess with this missing section. They could vote on the missing section on its own, or re-pass, re-veto, re-override the whole farm bill again … or do some other legal maneuvers to make up for the error.

All this was exploding just before Memorial Day, when I was *supposed* to be enjoying a nice, glorious case-closed, $300 billion-doled-out, override kind-of-a-day. Instead, it turned into a messy breakup. It’s like the farm bill moved out, but left all his stuff in my apartment.

Our relationship is pretty much over, but not totally … because he’s going to have to come back to get his crap. It looks like it will probably be a pretty quick thing. But there is always the chance we’ll start fighting again when that happens … and maybe we’ll have to open up the whole relationship and again and go through this whole process. Again. Oh, farm bill. Sigh.

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UPDATE: Hey, guys! I found the missing title of the farm bill! Err, sorry. It was in my bathroom the whole time. Argh! Please call the ag guys and President Bush and tell them I’m sorry. I’ll bring it back tomorrow.

OK, at some point my life, and thus this blog, will no longer be about the farm bill. But for now, this is what I do.

And today was the sort of farm bill day I’ve got to share.

President Bush vetoed the farm bill Wednesday, and the House voted overwhelmingly to override it. This is what we thought would happen. We thought the Senate would vote Thursday, override then BAM! the farm bill would be law. End of long, drawn-out story, already.

But wait — there was a glitch. A big one. And now they have to DO IT ALL OVER AGAIN.

Dear Lord, help us.

It turns out the “farm bill” the House sent to the President on Tuesday was missing a section. Oops. The printed version did not include one of the 14 titles, title three. It was the trade title, and was heretofore uncontroversial … until it was missing. Democrats say it was an honest mistake — oops, we lost part of the farm bill on accident. We meant to send it all — just a weird printing error. But “accidents” are not looked upon so lightly in the world of law. Some Republicans are calling it a violation of a little something they call “The Constitution.”

To clear things up, they are going to do the whole thing over again. Which means that the never-ending Groundhog Day cycles of the farm bill will continue. They’ll pass it again Thursday. They’ll send it again to the President and this time they will check to make sure ALL THE PAGES ARE THERE. Bush will have to veto it again, and then Congress will have to try to override the veto AGAIN.

I think some people may find this turn of events a bit shocking. But for those of us who have covered the long slog of back and forth on the farm bill, it comes as no surprise. House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangell said last week he has attended more funerals for the farm bill than anything else. Just add this one to the list.

One of the reporters said “pinch me” when it looked like it was actually about to end. Looks like he was dreaming. The farm bill continues.

When you last heard from me, I wrote that there was a deal on the farm bill. Then I proceeded to go into hiding for two weeks. Perhaps you thought I was on a beach somewhere, propping up my feet and *not* thinking about farms. (Wow, that brought back a flashback of when we were in Puerto Rico and I really was thinking about the farm bill on the beach … I then proceeded to become very depressed.)

I have not been at the beach. I have been … drumroll please … back in the hallway! Outside the closed-door farm bill negotiations! Which continued!

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) — who is really fun to cover, by the bye — said the farm bill has been like “whack a mole.” Every time they make a decision on something, three other things pop up. He also said he would like to practice target shooting on the Senate, but I am pretty sure he was kidding about that.

So, I’ve pretty much given up my humanity for the past two weeks in order to stand in hallways and write the same “almost there” farm bill story, over and over again.

But now lawmakers really *do* have a deal. I think. For now, at least.

This is what Peterson said yesterday:

“We finished the bill yesterday and like every time we finish it, it didn’t really get finished, so we came back and finished it again today. But this time it is done.”

This time it is done, people.

And I actually believe them, because I happen to know that Collin Peterson’s Minnesota turkey hunting license starts this weekend, and the man is not going to be in the Capitol.

But lest you think my farm bill days are over, let me tell you this: President Bush has threatened to veto the bill. So now I get to write millions of “what about a veto?” stories.

Remember the days of yore, when there were a kajillion candidates in the Republican and Democratic field and it was like a big party all the time? Everyone got along, mostly, and everyone was happy, and there were so many interesting characters and hairstyles.

Now the field is narrowing, and everyone is all hating on their fellow (wo)man. And we still have almost nine months of campaigning to go!

I just stumbled across this quote from Hillary Clinton, when she was on the Ellen Degeneres show in September 2007. Ellen asked if Hillary would have Obama as her running mate.

Hillary replied: “I have such great admiration for him [Obama] and everyone that I am running against. This is a great field, you don’t have to be against anybody. You can be just for whoever you think would be the best president. ”

p.s. Check out how that secret service guy is about to take that woman down for her dangerous use of the cell phone! That phone could have death laser beams in it! Get her, secret service man!

President Bush spent the past week in Africa, and it sounds like he received a warm welcome.

Our friend in Rwanda said it was “wonderful to receive the president of the United States of America in Rwanda; many people were standing on the road to wave hand when he passes through the road.”

We also hear there were many billboards of welcome and gratitude in Tanzania, including the one below, which totally cracks me up. I think it probably really did help President Bush to feel at home, since there are always billboards like that in D.C.
bushtanzania.jpg

dc-vote-cartoon.jpg

The Obama children’s crusade* came through! Last night when I got off the metro at Foggy Bottom (to go to our class at church), a GWU student gave me an Obama flyer and asked me to vote today. Thank you, thank you for caring! Also, Mike Huckabee called us at home and left a message that he is for DC statehood! See, that shows his conservative creds, that he wants to amend the Constitution.

*This article from Dana Millbank about the Iowa caucuses made me laugh and cry. It’s fantastic.

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