During the tugs of war that crop up in Washington during political debates and policymaking, it’s not surprising the act of legislating has often been compared to the art of sausage making.
Consider an analogy attributed long ago to George Washington. He compared the bicameral functions of the upper and lower chambers of Congress to a cooling saucer and hot coffee. America’s first president suggested the Senate “cools” legislation passed by the more tumultuous House of Representatives.
Skip ahead two centuries and regrettably, heated tempers were not allowed to cool in the deliberative senatorial saucer during a recent rule change in the U.S. Senate. Instead of cooling his heels, the Majority Leader booted the institutional traditions and decorum associated with the upper chamber of Congress.
Unfinished business includes the budget blueprint and the farm and food bill.
Working under the shadow of a $17 trillion national debt, lawmakers need to come to grips with the fact that Washington cannot tax-and-spend its way to prosperity. As a member of the budget conference tasked with a Dec. 13 deadline, I want the committee to reach an agreement that will set spending parameters for the federal government through the next fiscal year. So far, big spenders keep trying to hammer a square peg into a round hole, hooked on a utopian mindset that Big Government can solve all our problems. Just look where that’s gotten us: unsustainable spending, broken promises and a cynical American public.
Washington also keeps kicking the can down the road on the farm and food bill. Rural America, the nation’s food producers and the taxpaying public deserve better, long-term certainty than yet another short-term extension. This important piece of public policy sets into place farm and nutrition safety nets, conservation incentives and rural development programs. A big sticking point hinges on how much savings to extract from the food stamp program. All sides agree enrollment has soared. The expiring farm and food bill spent 80 percent of its budget on nutrition programs, including food stamps. In September, 15 percent of the population, or about 47 million Americans, received food stamp benefits.