Later this afternoon, Senator Tom Harkin will meet with former Congressman Jim Nussle who now is the president’s budget chief. Harkin, who is chairman of the Senate Ag Committee, has talked with Nussle by phone but will review the legislation with Nussle face-to-face this afternoon in Harkin’s senate office.
"I said, ‘Let’s sit down and kind of go through this and see where we are and what’s out there that we might probe and find where we can reach some agreement,’" Harkin said. "You know, where can we give, where can they give to try to get this thing through."
A committee of Senate and House members is being assembled to hammer out a compromise on the Farm Bill. President Bush has threatened to veto all the versions that have been offered so far. "So the clock is ticking and we’re still discussing the contours of a Farm Bill the president can sign," Harkin says.
The Farm Bill version that passed the Senate got 83 "yes" votes and it included tax hikes that Bush has said are unacceptable. Harkin says he intends to press Nussle, who is head of Bush’s Office of Management and the Budget, for some answers as to what the president will accept.
"The administration has signaled that it wants to work with congress on a bipartisan basis to pass a farm bill that the president can sign. I’m taking them at their word," Harkin says. "I will remind Mr. Nussle that this is a complex bill. He knows that. He’s been around a long time and any kind of rigid, ‘my way or the highway’ stance on the part of the White House just is not very helpful."
Nussle was chairman of the House Budget Committee when he left congress in January of 2007. He became Bush’s top budget advisor this summer.