Negotiations over a tangle of amendments trumped substance last week, as Senate leaders engaged in a fruitless search for a deal on how to proceed to farm policy legislation, pushing debate into another week. Senators did reject proposed changes on sugar price supports and food stamps, indicating that majority support for the bipartisan bill remains intact.
Although the five-year reauthorization (S 3240) has drawn widespread support, several
factions emerged last week to offer amendments on a variety of fronts, some dealing with farm policy and others touching on matters unrelated to the bill, from overall budget policy to aid for Pakistan.
While principals in the debate dealt behind the scenes with the stalemate, the Senate did dispense with two proposed amendments.
Senators voted 50-46 on June 13 to table a Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., proposal that would repeal the federal price support program for sugar producers. The vote was more along geographical than partisan lines, with 16 Republicans and 34 Democratic caucus members voting to table, and 30 Republicans and 16 Democrats opposed.
The amendment on sugar prices would have saved consumers about $3.5 billion a year by reducing the cost of sugar, said Shaheen, who previously introduced the proposal as a stand-alone bill (S 25).
“For years, the sugar industry has been getting a sweet deal, and American consumers and businesses have had to pay for it,” she said. “The sugar program should be eliminated to help small businesses in New Hampshire meet their bottom lines and put money back into the pockets of consumers.”
Supporters of the price-support program said it has no real cost to taxpayers and has at
best a negligible effect on the cost of food.
“A series of claims have been made about the U.S. sugar program that I believe are just false,” said Kent Conrad, D-N.D., highlighting a Congressional Budget Office estimate that the program under current demand will have no cost over the next 10 years.
The system of price supports has for years pitted sugar producers against consumers and businesses that purchase sugar for their products.
Also on June 13, senators voted down a Rand Paul, R-Ky., amendment, 65-33,
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