As Washington celebrates a bipartisan budget deal and imagines that John Boehner is finally putting the Tea Folk in their place by giving them a tongue-lashing they’ll never forget (I’m sure they are weeping in apologetic embarrassment, prepared now to take orders from the Great Big Adults of their party), there’s a ghost still haunting the capital. No, it’s not the Ghost of Christmas Past: it’s the Farm Bill, still in limbo after another year of futility, and bearing all the wounds of a savage conservative ideological war on food stamps.
As Norah Caplan-Bricker notes at TNR, the House quietly passed a one-month extension of agricultural programs, kicking the can down the road one last time. But it’s not clear what will happen in January:
The question now is whether the Senate will agree with the House of Representatives’ decision to pass a one-month extension of the farm bill, pushing expiration to January 31. “Pass the extension … and we on the Agriculture Committee will take care of our business in January,” Frank Lucas, the committee chairman, told Reuters. He added that House and Senate negotiators were making “incredible” progress on a new draft. But SNAP dependents have every reason to fear what that draft will look like. As Mother Jones has reported, Steve Southerland, one of the Republicans on the committee, is an anti-food stamps crusader of unprecedented vitriol. “The explosion of food stamps in this country is not just a fiscal issue for me,” Southerland told The Washington Post, which profiled him in September. “This is a defining moral issue of our time.” On that last, at least, his constituents who rely on the program may agree.
The budget deal may avoid one venue for ideological conflict in Congress, but there are plenty of others (including the upcoming minimum wage fight, and one might hope, a future debate over what to do about the long-term unemployed now that their UI benefits have run out). So don’t get used to thinking this is some sort of aborning era of good feelings, please.