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Shutdown Moves in Congress
Friday, January 11, 2019 1:51PM CST
By Jerry Hagstrom
DTN Political Correspondent

WASHINGTON (DTN) -- Ten Republicans joined House Democrats on Thursday to pass a fiscal year 2019 Agriculture appropriations bill. The legislation is not supported by Senate and House Republican leaders or by President Donald Trump, but is part of a Democratic effort to pressure Republicans into ending the partial government shutdown.

The vote was 243 to 183.

The Republicans who voted for the bill are Rodney Davis of Illinois, Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, Jaime Herrera Beutler of Washington state, Will Hurd of Texas, John Katko of New York, Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, Chris Smith of New Jersey, Elise Stefanik of New York, Fred Upton of Michigan and Greg Walden of Oregon.

Seven members -- six Republicans and one Democrat -- did not vote. The bill is the same Agriculture appropriations bill that the Senate passed last year.

As the House voted, President Trump and members of his cabinet went to a border area in southern Texas to make his case for funding the wall and other border security measures.

During an hour of debate, House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Sanford Bishop, D-Ga., led Democrats in urging passage of the bill in order to reopen the government.

Democratic members stressed the difficulties Americans are experiencing due to the government shutdown and said that while the Trump administration has come up with a plan to provide Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits in February, the administration has no plan for SNAP benefits for low-income Americans beyond that time.

Republicans led by Rep. Robert Aderholt, R-Ala., who chaired House Ag Approps in the last Congress, opposed the bill on the grounds that it does not include House priorities and will not result in the government reopening.

In the Senate, lawmakers are looking for ways to reopen federal agencies. Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman John Hoeven, R-N.D., said Thursday he has urged Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue to deem farm loans "essential," which would mean they would continue to be processed during the partial government shutdown.

"With the closure of FSA [Farm Service Agency] county and state offices, there is concern that producers will not have access to important loan programs that provide them with the necessary cashflow to operate," said Hoeven.

"I spoke with USDA Secretary Perdue to request that USDA work with OMB [the Office of Management and Budget] to deem these loan programs essential and ensure that these loans are processed for our producers."

Hoeven noted that USDA provides loans through both the Farm Service Agency (FSA) and the Commodity Credit Cooperation (CCC).

"The CCC is meant to provide stability in farm income and prices, and enables farmers to utilize Marketing Assistance Loans, a critical loan program which provides farmers with the temporary funds to hold their products off the market until prices improve. FSA provides both Guaranteed and Direct Farm Operating and Ownership loans to provide producers with access to credit," Hoeven said.

Hoeven also noted that he had spoken with North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring about mitigating impacts on the state's farmers and ranchers during the partial government shutdown.

"The government shutdown is impacting some of our North Dakota producers," Goehring said in the news release. "Farmers and ranchers are critical to food security and food supply across the globe and access to services provided by USDA are essential."

In a statement on the impact of the government shutdown, Senate Appropriations Committee ranking member Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., also told the story of an employee of the U.S. Forest Service, a division of the Agriculture Department, who has $5,500 on a government credit card that won't be paid until USDA reopens.

"I will share the story of a Vermonter who wrote to me about her sister," Leahy said. "Her sister joined the U.S. Forest Service. In the wake of the recent hurricanes and typhoons, she used a government credit card, issued in her name, to travel with the service to assist in the aftermath of these disasters.

"But now the bills for her official travel -- official travel -- are due, but there is no one at the Forest Service to pay them. She is now stuck with more than $5,500 in government bills in her name that she must pay or risk damaging her own financial record.

"She writes: 'This, though, is one very small story in a flood of credit disasters, unpaid mortgages, Christmas debts, anxieties, and uncertainties among government employees affected by the shutdown. I'm writing you to suggest that this kind of government shutdown should not be on the negotiation table, because it holds out the possibility that the suffering of the American people can be used as political leverage. There are other ways.'"

Leahy also said: "I have never in my 44 years in the United States Senate seen something so tone deaf from a president of the United States. Even during his address to the nation on Tuesday night, which was more of an exercise in data-distorting demagoguery than informing the American people, President Trump refused to acknowledge the real pain the Trump shutdown is causing.

"But dozens of Vermonters have contacted my office to share how they are suffering under the Trump shutdown. These Vermonters are urging the president and my Republican colleagues to stop playing politics with their lives and reopen the federal government."

Jerry Hagstrom can be reached at jhagstrom@njdc.com

Follow him on Twitter @hagstromreport


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