Congressional Democrats and Republicans and the White House have resolved a dispute over farm aid in a stopgap funding bill that had raised the risk of a U.S. government shutdown on Oct. 1.
Under the deal, farm aid will be added to legislation that would keep government operations financed through Dec. 11 in exchange for increased food aid to low-income families.
Once the House votes on the bill it will be sent to the Senate for a vote before the fiscal year ends Oct. 1.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her Democratic colleagues on Monday released a bill extending most funding into December, but it lacked the $30 billion for the Department of Agriculture’s Commodity Credit Corp. that the Trump administration and farm state lawmakers had sought.
Pelosi said in a statement the two sides had agreed on the bill and that it would include almost $8 billion in money for a pandemic program to feed children who normally receive school lunches.
“We also increase accountability in the Commodity Credit Corporation, preventing funds for farmers from being misused for a Big Oil bailout,” Pelosi said in her statement.
Democratic critics have accused President Donald Trump of using the CCC to dole out political favors. The president last Thursday announced he was drawing $13 billion in aid from the CCC to help rural areas, which are important to his re-election prospects. He unveiled the move at a campaign event in Wisconsin, a key battleground state in the presidential election.
Pelosi faced some criticism from her own members on the stopgap bill. Swing district Representative Cindy Axne of Iowa issuing a statement calling for inclusion of the CCC funds and warning about a shortfall for traditional farm subsidies.
Virginia Democrat Abigail Spanberger, who also represents a district that Republicans are trying to win back, criticized Pelosi in a tweet over the isssue.
“This is a partisan move that slows down much-needed relief for American farmers and agribusinesses. I strongly urge the speaker and House leadership to include an extension of the Commodity Credit Corporation’s borrowing authority in the funding bill,” she tweeted Tuesday.
A continued standoff would have risked the clock running out on government funding if the Senate blocked the House’s version of the stopgap bill and attempted to amend it with the farm-aid funds. Such a Senate vote could also have been politically difficult for Democrats in states where agriculture is a crucial industry.
Democrats had preferred to keep the farm aid debate for a separate stimulus bill and at one point agreed to the change in exchange for $2 billion in food assistance for children. But the final language was still being worked on.
Some Democrats had sought to extend funding into next spring, betting that the Nov. 3 election would put them in charge in the Senate and White House. Republicans resisted that push with the argument that it would give Congress a deadline to finish work on full funding bills.
If the stopgap is finalized, lawmakers will try to complete work on the 12 annual appropriations bills for fiscal 2021 in the post-election lame-duck session in November and December. So far the Senate hasn’t drafted any of the bills, and there’s likely a battle ahead over paying for Trump’s wall on the U.S.-Mexico border and replacing military funds he raided to pay for the wall last year.
Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin agreed earlier this month to keep talks on a coronavirus relief stimulus package separate from the stopgap bill. Stimulus talks have stalled since early August with both sides about $1 trillion apart in their offers.
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