Rumors that Senate leaders have reached a deal to break the deadlock on the farm bill debate are premature a spokesperson for the Senate Agriculture Committee said Thursday. Congress returns to Washington for the final days of the session on Dec. 3.
Staff level negotiations began in earnest Wednesday aimed at narrowing the universe of possible amendments. "We're close, but we're not there yet," said Kate Cyrul, the committee's press secretary. She said Chairman Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, is working closely with Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., the committee's ranking member to find agreement on amendments. "We want to get this bill back on track."
The floor debate on the bill stalled as senators headed home for the Thanksgiving following a failed vote to limit debate on amendments. Republicans would not agree to an attempt by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., to limit amendments to only those he decided were germane.
Negotiators from the staffs of Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., continue to be pressured to consider amendments on repeal of the estate tax, reform of the alternative minimum tax, and an immigration reform for farm workers known as AgJOBS.
With several major spending bills and other business facing Congress in the two weeks prior to the planned conclusion of this session before Christmas, debate on the farm bill is getting to down to the wire. Cyrul says, "We can get it done, if we can come up with an agreement."