In a teleconference with reporters today, Iowa Senator Tom Harkin announced the senate had just passed a 123-million-dollar bill financing health, education and labor programs. It also has special ed, after school, headstart and funding to forgive loans if teachers stay in Iowa to teach. Harkin’s senate agriculture committee failed to pass a federal farm bill yesterday, and the democratic Iowa Senator scoffed at the claim by U-S Ag Secretary Ann Veneman that the administration will support a farm bill if it has bipartisan support.He says every title in the bill got a unanimous vote, except commodities which was to be the one item they had to work out on the floor. Today Senate leadership declared the economic-stimulus bill is also dead for this session, and Harkin says lawmakers should wait and take a look at the nation’s economy in January. If there’s an upsurge, which he doesn’t expect, it would weigh against a package passing. Harkin had threatened that if the farm bill didn’t pass, economic-stimulus wouldn’t pass.If the economy doesn’t deteriorate any farther, it’ll signal what should be put into any stimulus package. Harkin says among achievements he’s proud of is the establishment of a senior prescription-drug program last year. They’re enrolling people now, will begin providing benefits Jan 2, and 11-thousand seniors have enrolled. Harkin says that’s a rate of about a thousand people a week. One measure that’s not going to make it through the Senate before adjournment is a bill that would give federal backing for catastrophic losses by insurance companies if there were another terrorist attack. Harkin’s unapologetic about that. He says some big insurance companies were using the issue to jack up rates, so he wants the bill looked at more closely. Harkin said during the session that’s wrapping up, he thinks the Senate was able to complete “a good deal” of the nation’s business. Harkin added he’s disappointed in the failure of the farm bill to pass, but says it’ll be the first order of business in the next session that begins in January.
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