"Since Congress passed a clean CR, any further consideration for drought aid will have to wait until members return for a lame duck session," said NCGA Director of Public Policy Sam Willett. "We are optimistic at that time Congress will find a way to pass a disaster aid package."
In a last minute effort to keep the federal government operational through Nov. 22, the House passed the CR in a 228-172 vote. To the surprise of many members, the Bush administration maintained its position that the House only pass a "clean" CR, cautioning any new spending must be paid with offsets. In order to quickly pass a CR while side-stepping political ramifications, the House leadership sent a "clean" bill to the floor.
Warning that attaching additional funding to a CR would cause political turmoil and may cause delays, Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) told members "if there's a problem" with disaster aid the House would deal with it in the lame duck session. Speaker Hastert came under great scrutiny from House and Senate members, the industry and media when his quote reached the Washington Post Oct. 17.
Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) scrutinized Hastert for dismissing House members "without first taking action to provide disaster relief to the ranchers and farmers hit by drought, wildfires, flooding and other natural disasters around the country."
"Considering the news coverage of the drought conditions in the past year, most members of Congress understand that a lot of America's farmers and ranchers need disaster aid relief," said Willett. "Speaker Hastert has since said he will work toward moving disaster relief forward in the lame duck session. NCGA plans on holding him to that."
On a similar note, Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.) introduced H.R. 5589, the Companion Disaster Assistance Program Act (CDAP). The bill includes many of NCGA's CDAP recommendations for crop disaster aid. H.R. 5589 would provide more equitable aid for crop insurance participants and producers affected by severe droughts and flooding.
"H.R. 5589 would help deliver much needed assistance to producers, while encouraging more producers to participate in the federal crop insurance program," said Willett. ""Unfortunately, progress toward funding agricultural disaster assistance has been impacted by congressional disagreement and time running out.
"But we will continue to push CDAP measures next Congress."