In June, the Senate debated and passed the Agriculture Reform, Food, and Jobs Act of 2012, known to almost everyone as the farm bill.
Years ago, farm bills routinely passed with bipartisan support — every member of Congress represents someone who eats, and most represent some farmers. Yet across the Capitol in the House, bipartisan momentum for the bill wilted, even as farmers battled the worst drought in decades. Too expensive, conservatives said. Too many cuts to food stamps, liberals answered.
Was there an alternative to the farm bill? Yes: Emergency drought relief, enough to get some farmers through the summer.
The Republican House said yes. The Democratic Senate said no.
Behold the modern American legislature, where nothing is accomplished, and slowly.
“Congress is almost impossible. It’s unruly anyway under the best of circumstances,” said former Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman, now a senior fellow at the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington. “Now we have the worst of circumstances.”