Earlier today, Speaker Boehner announced that he will bring the farm bill to the floor and personally vote for it. This is a sharp departure from his previous statements railing against the Soviet-style subsidies and productions quotas for sugar and dairy farming. Hence, he is caving on one of the few issues for which he has always shown intrepid conviction.
There’s a new platitude that is being propagated by the GOP establishment in defense of odious new legislation or reauthorization of existing bad policies. They are asserting that passing big government legislation; that passing Democrat priorities is better than the status quo; that action is superior to inaction. This is the most dangerous, defeatist attitude for a Republican to harbor, and conservatives must make it clear that, especially when in the minority, Republicans must stop bad legislation. Period.
We’ve already seen this dynamic unfold with the immigration deform bill. This bill will do to our immigration system and the rule of law what Obamacare is doing to our healthcare system. Yet, instead of pursuing an aggressive conservative policy strategy on this issue, both the leaders in the Senate and House are saying that we must pass something, irrespective of the merits of the bill. They are basically saying that another ‘amnesty first, promise of enforcement later’ is superior to doing nothing. This logic is borderline insanity.
Now Boehner is pursuing the same line of thought with the farm bill. He is going to bring the farm bill to the floor and call for a conference with the Senate because doing nothing is not an option:
"Doing nothing means we get no changes in the nutritions programs, and as a result, I'm going to vote for a farm bill to make sure that the good work of the Agriculture Committee ... gets to a conference."
Actually, doing nothing, while forcing another short-term extension of the existing bill, is better than pushing a new 5-year bill that will preclude any opportunity to enact real reforms for quite some time. While this bill contains less of a baseline spending increase in food stamps than the Senate version, it still, more or less, lock in Obama’s baseline of record food stamp spending. Roughly 80% of the $955 billion 10-year package is allocated for food stamps. On the farming side, this bill adds a new shallow loss insurance program, which could cost more than direct subsidies, and a price support system for crops that is characteristic of a third world country. It also contains a deleterious sugar subsidy program and a dairy production regulatory regime, which John Boehner once referred to as Soviet style.
Yes, Republicans will have an opportunity to vote on reform amendments, such as Bob Goodlatte’s dairy supply management reform or sugar subsidy reform. Those amendments might even pass the full House. However, they will all be gutted during the conference with the Senate, and many more harmful provisions, such as biofuel subsidies will be parachuted in behind closed doors.
Instead, Boehner should commit to splitting up food stamps and farm subsidies once and for all. That way we will have the ability to shine some sun light on both aspects without confronting the juggernaut of the rural-urban logrolling alliance. We need to chart food stamps on a course towards pre-Bush era levels of spending and work on devolving the program to the states. On the farming side, we understand that 80 years of government intervention will not end over night, but we need to be guaranteed that these reforms, along with means-testing of subsidies will be included in any conference report before we sign off on another failed 5-year bill. And if the Democrats don’t like it, then tough luck on them. We will get the status quo.
We need conservatives in Congress to invoke the Hastert Rule and demand that legislation on farm/food stamps and immigration reflect the views of the conference. They need a commitment from him that any conference report will not contain Democrat priorities, and if it does, it will not be brought to the floor.
We control the House. It’s time we start acting like we do. We need to advance our priorities and not use the good-will from conservatives as a vehicle to pass bad bills. Bad action is worse than inaction.
Cross-posted from The Madison Project