Grand bargain comes unraveled in the House

July 14, 2013 

If Americans are wondering what their representatives in Washington are doing, they are right to question. Senators and members of the House of Representatives are working hard, however, much of their effort is not on behalf of the American people, but on thwarting the other political party or remaining pure to an unrealistic ideology.

There were two examples of Washington, D.C., gridlock that was on rare display last week. Both issues will have an impact on Georgia, and in many respects, the stance taken by House Republicans will have a grave impact on their pro-business creed.

The first is stripping food stamps from the Senate version of the Farm Bill, which provided $955 billion over a 10-year period. Certainly, in a perfect world, food stamps should be handled apart from an agricultural program already full of its subsidies and price supports. But joining the two concerns was a negotiated deal between rural and urban legislators to garner bipartisan support dating back 40 years. That grand bargain has worked pretty well -- until now.

The House version, according to the Congressional Budget Office, with food stamps stripped, will cost $196 billion over 10 years. The House version did not attract a single Democratic vote.

In Georgia, as of April, 1.9 million residents used food stamps to put food on their tables. Nationally there are 48 million who depend on the program, and while other states are seeing a decrease in food stamp usage, Georgia’s rate is increasing.

The House version was opposed by 530 organizations, including the American Farm Bureau Association, the nation’s largest, and the Georgia Farm Bureau Federation. In the letter to Speaker John Boehner, they wrote, “We believe that splitting the nutrition title from the rest of the bill could result in neither farm nor nutrition programs passing.” They may just be right if a way forward cannot be found.

While fingers are always pointing at users of the massive food stamp program, they are rarely aimed at large concerns -- from grocery stores to canning companies -- that profit from the program.

Think about it, if the food stamp program were to end today, people would survive somehow. Maybe recipients would start growing their own food, but the loud sucking sound that would accompany such action would hurt some of the nation’s largest industries and place our economy in the toilet.

The other area of conflict last week was on immigration. Georgia farmers and others around the nation have pleaded for reform. “No go,” said the House. The bipartisan Senate version was dead on arrival. Last season, Georgia farmers plowed acres of crops under because there was no one to pick them.

House Republicans are at cross purposes with their national ambitions. Red America, as explained by The New York Times, finds that, through redistricting, Republicans have carved out districts that are 74.7 percent white. It’s easy to rail against immigration reform in Republican districts and still get re-elected. Democratic districts are 51.1 percent white.

House Republicans were not chastened by the 2012 national elections, but are speeding down a path that, for a time, will keep them in power in the House, but destroy their chances of holding national office.

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