Debate over legislation on blueberries and state fairs descended into partisanship Tuesday as Republicans decried $28 billion in farm aid that is still missing from a massive social spending package.
House Agriculture Chair David Scott (D-Ga.) confirmed he has seen draft language to add $28 billion for farmers and ranchers to a sweeping spending measure that could total $3.5 trillion. Scott wouldn’t comment on whether he shared it with other committee Democrats.
The panel voted Tuesday to advance bipartisan legislation (H. Res. 271) commemorating national blueberry month and offering aid to state fairs affected by the pandemic (H.R. 2424). Although both measures were approved by voice vote, GOP members said other bipartisan bills needed to take precedent over the blueberry commemoration.
The $28 billion, which was intended to fund farm conservation initiatives, was left out of the bill advanced by the panel along party lines on Sept. 13 because the language was tied up at the Congressional Budget Office, which provides cost estimates for legislation.
Although the Agriculture Committee is historically known for working across the aisle, the drama highlights the Republican backlash around how the massive spending package is coming together.
Rep. Austin Scott (R-Ga.) asked when his party would see the language for the $28 billion, which the chair said will happen when the Budget Committee has worked out the reconciliation package.
‘More Serious Work’
Rep. Dusty Johnson (R-S.D.) pointed to droughts, wildfires, African swine fever, and cattle market hurdles as better focuses for the panel. He listed seven bills with bipartisan cosponsors that could instead be considered.
“I hope tomorrow brings more serious work for this committee,” Johnson said.
Several Democrats, including Reps. Alma Adams (N.C.), stuck to discourse on the importance of the blueberry sector. However, Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) countered that Republican concerns were addressed during the nine-hour reconciliation markup. None of the 38 amendments offered by Republicans were adopted at that meeting.
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