The Senate will hold a vote Friday morning expected to determine nothing less than whether or not there will be a new farm bill. The bill has become a victim of political posturing and election politics as it hit an impasse between Senate Democrats and Republicans the past two weeks. If Friday's vote to limit debate on the bill to 30 hours fails, Democrats say the bill is dead this year and could lead to an extension of the 2002 farm bill.
After the past two weeks of stalemate, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., called for the cloture vote Friday to impose a time limit on the bill and to debate only amendments ruled germane to agriculture. But, many doubt he will win the 60 votes needed, even though Reid and Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, predict that all Senate Democrats (49 Democrats plus two Independents that vote Democratic) are expected to vote in favor of cloture.
Reid and Harkin charged openly Thursday that Senate Republicans and the White House are attempting to kill the bill in the Senate. Harkin said he believes that Congressional Republicans would rather have it die now than to have the President carry through with a threatened veto next year in the midst of primary elections after the bill goes through the Senate-House conference.
But, a senior USDA official said Thursday that there is no truth to rumors the Administration is trying to kill the Senate's bill. The official noted the Administration unveiled its farm bill proposal in January to allow plenty of time for timely action.