Thursday, December 5, 2013
The Miami Herald
Here they go again: The House of Representatives managed to pass a farm bill last week that has absolutely no chance of becoming law. The sheer futility of this political stunt resembles the House's multiple repeals of Obamacare, a variety of anti-abortion measures, and the ongoing approval of immigration bills that lack a basic citizenship provision.
None of them are going anywhere -- fortunately -- and all of them are a waste of time. But enacting laws no longer seems to be the objective of many House members. The point is to give House Republicans affiliated with the tea party an opportunity to boast of a political victory, thus letting them dodge a primary challenge from the right in the next election.
These political games carry a price. At the end of the day, Congress manages to do absolutely nothing to deal with serious national problems and people get hurt. The farm bill is a perfect example of how the public winds up paying for congressional inaction.
At this point, the best hope is that farm interests and supporters of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program join hands to persuade Congress to come to its senses. Now that the House has passed a bill, bad as it is, Senate and House negotiators have an opportunity to negotiate a compromise version that restores funding for food stamps at an acceptable level.
There is a case to be made for a wider, sensible overhaul of the food stamp program to reduce fraud and waste, as well as a companion bill to reduce farm subsidies, without gutting either program.
But that will have to wait until better days, when the spirit of compromise and common sense returns to Capitol Hill.