November 28, 2014

GOP leaders reject bid to force House vote on Farm Bill

Republican leaders in the U.S. House have scheduled a vote this week on a legislation to help the coal industry, but refused to schedule votes on the Farm Bill or on legislation to extend a key tax credit for the wind industry. Congressman Leonard Boswell, a Democrat from Des Moines, made a pitch for the Farm Bill last night before the U.S. House Committee on Rules — the panel that sets the debate agenda for the House.

“We’ve heard discussion on and on and on about the importance of the Farm Bill, so I thought, ‘Well, maybe there’s a chance before this committee,” Boswell said.

At this point the committee’s chairman — perhaps engaged in a different conversation — called out someone else’s name. Boswell continued addressing the committee: “If you’ll take this opportunity to respond to what we’re hearing across the country from everybody, seems to me, to put the Senate bill out in front of us and let’s discuss it and debate it and amend it and get the thing to conference and let’s see what we can do.”

The committee’s chairman interrupted by saying, “Thank you,” to someone — and Boswell concluded by saying the Farm Bill has a “tremendous impact” on Iowa farmers and processors.

“All of us have a vested interest in what goes on in agriculture. We all eat and we get something back — I don’t care if you live in downtown New York, or wherever, Los Angeles, who knows…plentiful, safe, least expensive food in the world,” Boswell said.

The eight Republicans on the committee shot down Boswell’s request for a vote in the House on the Senate-passed Farm Bill. Boswell also asked the committee to schedule a vote on the wind production tax credit, as it is set to expire on December 31.

“This is something that will certainly promote jobs and activities and get us less reliant on foreign oil, if you will, and on and on it goes,” Boswell said. “And it’s a very big impact on the economy.”

Siemens announced this week 407 people at its wind turbine blade plant in Fort Madison are being laid off because of a slow-down in orders due to uncertainty about the wind production tax credit.

“We have seven different companies in Iowa that are producing blades and turbines…and I understand the rest will follow suit,” Boswell said.

All eight Republicans on the committee voted against allowing a vote on a proposal to extend the wind production tax credit, while the two Democrats present voted yes. The Rules Committee is made up of eight Republicans and just four Democrats.  According to the committee’s website, it is “commonly known as ‘The Speaker’s Committee’ because it is the mechanism that the Speaker uses to maintain control of the House Floor.”

The committee gave Boswell about two-and-a-half minutes to make his case for the Farm Bill and the wind production tax credit. The rest of the nearly two hour meeting was spent discussing proposals to aid the coal industry.