Iowa Congressman Bruce Braley is circulating a petition among members of the U.S. House in hopes of forcing a vote on the Farm Bill. If Braley gets 218 members of congress to sign what’s called a “discharge” petition, a vote on the Farm Bill could be held before the House goes on vacation August 5.
“If the Republican House leaders won’t take action to bring this bill to the floor, then I will,” Braley says.
House GOP leaders have tabled the Farm Bill indefinitely. Braley, a Democrat from Waterloo, says it may be late November or December before a vote is taken under that scenario.
“That is unacceptable to me and it’s unacceptable to people’s whose lives are impacted by the uncertainty of knowing a pathway forward for farming in the next five years,” Braley says, “and let alone in the wake of this disastrous drought with its significant implications for our state and our national economy.”
A coalition of fiscal conservatives and Tea Party members strongly opposes farm subsidies and House GOP leaders want to avoid a nasty fight among Republicans before the November election. The Farm Bill cleared the Senate in June with bipartisan support. The House Ag Committee passed its own draft of the Farm Bill in mid-July, with support from Republicans and Democrats on the committee.
“What’s exceedingly rare about this is the leadership in the House Republican Conference and the speaker refusing to bring this bill to the floor for a vote,” Braley says.
Braley expects Republican leaders to pressure rank-and-file House members to keep them from signing Braley’s petition that would force a vote on the Farm Bill. Braley admits the tactic of collecting petition signatures from members of congress is not often successful in forcing votes in the House.
“But it’s an extreme device that has to be used when there is an unwillingness on the part of leadership to bring a measure of this significance to the floor,” Braley says, “and that’s why we’re taking this drastic action.”
Braley and the other four members of Iowa’s congressional delegation co-signed a letter to House leaders last Friday, calling for a vote on the Farm Bill, but it’s unclear if Republican Congressmen Tom Latham of Clive and Steve King of Kiron would sign Braley’s petition to bypass House Republican leaders. A conservative group already is running ads that criticize King for supporting the Farm Bill.