There was no progress on the farm bill this week. Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., says she is ready to begin a conference committee with members of the House, but so far the leadership in the House says they will not appoint committee members until the full House deals with the nutrition part of the bill.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor says the House will “act with dispatch” - but so far there is no movement.
After next week, Congress goes on a month-long recess and will have to deal with funding issues in September to avoid a government shut-down at the end of the fiscal year.
Bottom line: The potential for another extension of the 2008 farm bill is rising.
Even if a House-Senate conference committee is convened, developing a bill that can pass both the House and Senate may be impossible.
The gulf between what the House members want in the way of cuts to nutrition programs and the level the Senate will accept is huge.
One other possible outcome for the farm bill is that the leaders of the House and Senate do come up with a plan and attach that proposal to some other “must-pass” legislation, such as a continuing resolution to fund the government in fiscal 2014.
Under that scenario, a farm bill could be approved without members of the House or the Senate voting on the provisions of the farm program itself.
This fall the government will reach its borrowing limit and Congress will need to raise the debt ceiling. Battle lines are already being drawn for this upcoming debate.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, says the House “will not raise the debt ceiling without real cuts in spending”.
Boehner says he will require that spending cuts match the amount of the increase in the debt ceiling. President Obama has previously said that he will not negotiate spending cuts to get an increase in the debt ceiling.
When the debt ceiling is reached, the government will be unable to pay its bills and provide benefit payments.
The current debt ceiling is $16.7 trillion and the government is expected to hit this level in late October or early November.