The latest adventure from Barack Obama???s truth-challenged campaign took place in Iowa, where the President accused Rep. Paul Ryan, vice presidential candidate on the Republican ticket, of being ???one of those leaders in Congress standing in the way??? of a farm bill that would ???provide relief and certainty to U.S. farmers and ranchers.???
???So, if you happen to see Congressman Ryan, tell him how important this farm bill is to Iowa and our rural communities. It???s time to put politics aside and pass it right away,??? the President urged Iowa voters.
Which is a nice sound bite??? except for the fact that the House of Representatives passed the farm bill. The Senate, which is controlled by do-nothing Harry Reid and the Democrats, decided to blow out of Washington without voting on it.
Among other things, they objected to a $16 billion cut in the massively bloated $770 billion food stamp program ??? whose funding makes up fully 80 percent of the ???farm bill.??? The size of the food stamp program has doubled since 2008, with approximately one in seven Americans now receiving food assistance. The House bill accomplished this largely by means-testing food stamps to ensure certain asset and income limits were met ??? a measure whose necessity will come as a surprise to the vast number of American voters who think food stamps already work that way.
For the benefit of Obama supporters unclear about how Congress works, Paul Ryan is a ???Representative,??? which means he serves in the House of Representatives, not the Senate. And in any event, Ryan does not sit on the House Agriculture Committee, so while he would vote on any given agriculture bill, he would not have a pivotal role in ???blocking??? one.
The Senate did send a food stamp bill??? er, excuse me, ???farm bill?????? to the House earlier this year, which reduced the food stamp program by only $4.5 billion, but the House voted on its own bill instead. Such games of legislative tennis are not uncommon when the issue is hotly debated. There???s no doubt that the ball was in the Senate???s court when the whistle for the August recess was blown.
The farm states are currently suffering through a drought, which adds urgency to the debate. For this reason, the House separated drought relief from the rest of the highly contentious farm bill and passed $383 million in emergency disaster relief separately on August 2. The ranking Democrat on the House Agricultural Committee, Rep. Collin Peterson of Minnesota, criticized this move, insisting that ???weathering a natural disaster without the certainty of a five-year bill could damage one of the bright spots we have in this economy.??? Paul Ryan voted for it. The Senate refused to vote on the measure, so it joined the 30-plus pro-growth jobs bills passed by the House, only to gather dust on Harry Reid???s desk.
But now Paul Ryan, who doesn???t even sit on the Agriculture Committee, is blamed by President Obama for ???blocking??? that very drought relief! And this is the same President who claims he cannot be held accountable for a single thing that has gone wrong in America since the day he took office. Why not hold Democrats responsible for making farmers suffer, because they can???t accept even a modest reduction in their precious food stamp program?
There have been a lot of twists and turns in the farm bill saga, but it???s incredibly disingenuous of Obama to portray Ryan as the guy Iowa farmers should be angry with. It reeks of sheer panic and desperation on the President???s part.
Of course, he???s betting that the media won???t call him on it, and so far, he???s right ??? very few mainstream press accounts have done much more than relay Obama???s accusation, and occasionally the response from Romney campaign staff. As reported by the Washington Times, Romney campaign spokesman Ryan Williams said, ???The truth is no one will work harder to defend farmers and ranchers than the Romney-Ryan ticket. After nearly four years of failure, it???s no wonder that Barack Obama returns to the state that launched his presidential campaign with nothing more than broken promises and false attacks.???
This is all part of a very old game played in Congress. Many disparate subjects ??? such as food stamps and drought relief ??? are gathered into huge bills with pleasing names. Those who object to any component of the massive bill and vote against are accused of voting against whatever benevolent impulse is described in the title of the bill, and hating whichever group of nominal beneficiaries sound most sympathetic to voters. Thus, if you vote against the Crime Prevention and Single Mothers Act, you must want crime to get worse, and hate single mothers, regardless of what your specific objection to the actual text of the bill might be.
If there are competing bills covering the same topic, each party pretends that only legislation passed by the house of Congress under its control exists at all. As you can see from the farm bill debate, few of our elected representatives are eager to give up that sort of valuable political obfuscation by breaking huge bills down into individual measures and casting clear votes on specific issues.
If the Republicans controlled both houses of Congress, and Obama vetoed a hundred bills they placed on his desk, he would still describe them as the ???obstructionists.??? One of the problems with Big Government is that it???s very difficult to pin down individual accountability for anything it does. Any given congressional representative can be said to have voted for, or against, a great many different things, with every single vote he casts.
Update: Janice Tolley Walters, communications director for the National Corn Growers Association, offers a concise summary of the confusing path agriculture legislation has taken between the House and Senate this year: "The entire Senate passed the 2012 farm bill but did not pass the disaster assistance package. The House Agriculture Committee passed the 2012 farm bill, but not the entire House of Representatives. The entire House, however, did pass the disaster assistance package."