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And we're paying for this? Do-nothingest Congress in half a century

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• In a four-year term fraught with economic and political disasters, those who track such things note this is the do-nothingest Congress since the 1960s. Its latest Gallup poll approval rating was 10 percent.

You are doubtless thrilled that the U.S. House — in its last legislative action before leaving town for politicking until after the November elections — passed the Stop the War on Coal Act by a 233-175 vote.

It was one of a scant handful of actions in a lone week that came on the heels of a five-week summer recess.

Passage of the Coal Act amounted to little, since the Senate, also closing shop for weeks of electioneering (in Congress-speak it’s termed “an extended district work period”), was not expected to act on it, and the White House had said it would veto it anyhow.

They did manage to OK a temporary budget aimed at avoiding a shutdown of the government.

But once again, the lawmakers, with more important fish to fry (?), punted on passing a farm bill.

“The House Republicans have added a new uncertainty for rural America,” said Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. “U.S. agriculture is fighting to maintain the tremendous momentum it has built over the past three years, but with natural disasters and other external forces threatening livelihoods of our farmers and ranchers … without the certainty of a multi-year bill, rural communities are being asked to shoulder undue burdens.”

Former Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman, in an article for the Aspen Institute, noted, “This is the first farm bill in modern history that has expired for any length of time without passage, or an extension of current programs. Failure to act … will put tens of thousands of farmers in some degree of financial jeopardy, because farm lenders often base their lending decisions on federal farm policy, and in this case they will be less likely to make affirmative lending decisions to farmers, not knowing what farm and crop insurance programs will look like.

“Many key provisions expired Sept. 30, which creates enormous uncertainty for farm, conservation, nutrition, rural development, and trade programs of the USDA.

“Unless Congress acts soon, either in the lame duck session after the election, or through passage of an extension of the current programs — especially since the drought has caused so much hardship for farmers — all chaos will break out in farm country…”

A number of major newspapers around the country are criticizing Congress’ diddling on farm legislation and speculating that it may backfire on Republican members in several farm states. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, for one, noted, “Democrats could make a lot of hay, because it’s the Republicans that are blocking passage.”

No farm bill. Nothing to resolve the budget mess. No restructuring of the hopelessly in-debt Postal Service. Here, nothing; there, nothing.

In a four-year term fraught with economic and political disasters, those who track such things note this is the do-nothingest Congress since the 1960s. Its latest Gallup poll approval rating was 10 percent.

Oh yes, of the 65 bills passing both chambers this year, one out of five was to name a federal building.

Way to go!!

hbrandon@farmpress.com

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