Political Notebook: Political Bedfellows Combine To Defeat Farm Bill

By Don Davis

Strange political bedfellows who disagree on about everything combined to slap down the U.S. House farm bill.

Republicans who want a smaller federal budget and Democrats who want more money spent on food stamps joined in the 234-195 defeat. It is something being seen more and more in politics as political extremes often oppose moderate proposals.

Many politicians blamed those in the other party for the defeat, an embarrassment to Republicans who control the House. They also could not pass a farm bill last year, falling back to a one-year extension of existing farm policy.

“The problem is how we can maneuver all of the extremes on both sides,” said U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson, a western Minnesotan and top House agriculture Democrat.

Peterson said the problem came after the two parties agreed to a compromise farm and nutrition bill, but Republicans began adding amendments that they should have known Democrats could not accept.

The compromise crumbled, Peterson said, beginning when the GOP changed a dairy program compromise.

“When the dairy thing went down, that is when I saw this was about to fall apart,” Peterson said, adding that he warned GOP leaders about what was happening.

The situation is filled with irony, especially the fact that many Republicans who voted against the bill want deeper food stamp cuts than it contained; the defeat could pave the way for higher spending. If a new bill does not pass, the federal government will pay more for farm and food stamp programs, the opposite of what conservatives want.

Peterson, who has complained about increased Washington partisanship, said he is taking hits from both sides.

Republicans blame him for failing to deliver enough Democratic votes to pass the bill, even though it was the GOP that changed the compromise plan. Democrats are not happy with Peterson because he worked with Republicans on lowing food stamp spending.

“Clearly, it was not a good day for the House of Representatives,” Peterson said.

Helping candidates

The group that helped get gay marriage approved in Minnesota is turning its attention to re-electing legislators who voted for same-sex marriage.

Some rural lawmakers face challenges because of their votes.

The first five of 15 that Minnesotans United plans to help are Democratic Reps. Joe Radinovich of Crosby, Shannon Savick of Wells, Tim Faust of Hinckley, Roger Erickson of Baudette and John Persell of Bemidji.

Hightower re-elected

Minnesota State Colleges and Universities trustees have re-elected Clarence Hightower of Plymouth as their chairman.

Thomas Renier of Duluth was picked as vice chairman.

Hightower is executive director of the Community Action Partnership of Ramsey and Washington Counties. Renier is the president of the Northland Foundation, a nonprofit organization involved in grant making, business lending and a variety of other initiatives to assist the children, families, older adults, businesses and communities of northeastern Minnesota.

Water system questions

Minnesota, South Dakota and Iowa federal lawmakers want to know why the federal Bureau of Reclamation is dragging its feet on the Lewis and Clark Regional Water System.

They demanded answers from bureau Commissioner Michael Connor about why his department is not adequately funding the project.

“This project needs to get done,” U.S. Rep. Tim Walz, a southern Minnesota Democrat, said. “Ensuring southwest Minnesota has access to a safe, abundant water supply will help rural communities grow and small businesses prosper.”

The lawmakers said that the federal government is committed to paying more than $200 million for the project, but only $3.2 million is in the pipeline.

Klobuchar: Allow TV in court

U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., is co-sponsoring a bill to allow television cameras in the U.S. Supreme Court.

“Supreme Court decisions can have a transformative effect on the lives of Americans, and the court should not operate outside of the view of the public that is so greatly impacted by the justices’ rulings,” Klobuchar said. “Allowing television cameras in the courtroom would increase public confidence in government and help promote a well-functioning democracy.”

Klobuchar has been mentioned as a potential Supreme Court justice. Her name also has been tossed around as a possible presidential candidate.