The continuing resolution to keep the government funded through early next year includes an extension of the farm bill, a massive package of legislation that governs key agriculture and nutrition programs. The farm bill, which is approved roughly every five years, was extended at current levels through the end of September next year.
Congress is regularly late to approve the farm bill, so lawmakers aren’t excessively concerned about an extension. Representative Glenn Thompson, the chair of the House Agriculture Committee, told me that the yearlong extension had more to do with the need for stability in key programs than any pessimism about negotiating the bill in a timely fashion.
“We’re not looking to wait until September to do a farm bill. We have to extend it that far because of the complexities of some of these agricultural programs,” Thompson said. Although some farmers have worried about leaving reference prices to trigger crop insurance at 2018 levels in the year 2023, Thompson and other members believe that extending the bill is better than having nothing at all.
Representative Jim McGovern, a Democratic member of the committee, offered the faint praise that the extension was “clean.” “There’s no right-wing, MAGA, bullshit culture-war attachments to it,” McGovern said. “It gives our farmers and and it gives people who rely on nutrition programs some peace of mind that this won’t all come crashing to a halt anytime soon.”
Another Republican member of the committee, Representative Zach Nunn, echoed that sentiment. “I think it’s incredibly important that we provide certainty for our farmers,” Nunn said. “I’ve already got guys back in Iowa who have made decisions on what they’re going to plant, how they’re going to harvest, what livestock operations are going to look like. And so giving them a long runway is important.”
The farm bill is a traditionally bipartisan measure, bolstered by a marriage of rural agricultural interests and nutrition assistance advocates. The largest part of the farm bill is also the most controversial: the nutrition title, which includes funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, more colloquially known as food stamps. Members of the conservative Freedom Caucus have vented their spleen about the farm bill extension, indicating that spending on SNAP is a nonstarter for them.
“The farm bill itself represents everything that’s wrong with Washington, because the farm aspect of it only comprises about 25 percent of the bill,” said Representative Bob Good, a member of the Freedom Caucus. “You’re hijacking, holding hostage, the farm portion to the welfare part of it.”
The bill that raised the debt limit in June included tightening of work requirements for able-bodied adults without children up to a certain age, although it also strengthened exceptions. However, some conservative Republicans believe that SNAP needs to be further adjudicated. Representative Barry Moore, another member of the committee and of the Freedom Caucus, said that it was “certainly possible” some conservative Republicans would withhold their votes due to their frustrations with SNAP.
Thompson told me that any opposition to the farm bill based on wanting to cut SNAP further is “unfortunately out of ignorance.” “People that really don’t understand the program, they’re not aware of how the program actually works and the changes and refinements that we’ve made—significant ones—earlier this year,” said Thompson.
Representative Don Bacon, another GOP committee member, predicted that Democratic votes would make up for opposition from hard-line Republicans.
“A lot of them come from agricultural areas, so it totally eludes me,” said Bacon.
Vibe check: No rest for the WIC
The continuing resolution keeping the government open through early next year did not include emergency funding for the Women, Infants and Children nutrition program, commonly referred to as WIC. The Biden administration had requested an additional $1.4 billion to maintain the program amid an increase in participation and an uptick in food costs.
Like the continuing resolution passed in September, the one considered by Congress this week includes flexibilities to keep WIC afloat in the near future. But that’s only a short-term solution, said Nell Menefee-Libey, the public policy manager at the National WIC Association.
“It’s something of a BandAid on a bullet hole, because we’re really borrowing against the program’s future, and jeopardizing the long-term stability and flexibility to serve families,” Menefee-Libey said. “It’s really, really discouraging that Congress hasn’t indicated that they intend to maintain the tradition of full funding for the program, and that has engendered a lot of uncertainty.”
Democrats are worried over the future of WIC, but they currently lack a clear answer for how they will keep the program afloat. “We’ll be searching for a way to get that funding, but when you look at what’s happening in the House, where it’s considered a miracle to get a C.R. passed … that’s a daunting challenge,” said Democratic Senator Peter Welch.
The emergency funding for WIC, while a priority for many Democrats, was not on the top of the list for Republicans. “If the Democrat allegation is that the C.R. does not meet every single one of their policy desires, they’re right,” said GOP Representative Dusty Johnson. “I’ve yet to see a legislative vehicle deliver every single win that any single person wanted. Welcome to the game.”
McGovern argued that his Republican colleagues did not appreciate the urgency of the situation. “They have no clue. Either that, or they don’t give shit. It’s one or the other, and both are unforgivable,” he said.
Menefee-Libey said that state directors administering WIC “maybe do not have the faith that Congress will fully fund the program.”
“If we, God forbid, get to January and have a full-year appropriations vehicle that doesn’t fully fund the program, then state directors would be in the position of having to turn folks away for the first time in nearly three decades,” she said. “So new moms in the middle of a national maternal health crisis will lose access to WIC, as well as, the kids on the program could also be turned away. It’s just a disastrous result.”
Vibe check: Let them fight
The House has been in session for 10 weeks in a row, and the Senate for five weeks. And lately, perhaps in part due to pent-up frustration from having to actually go into the office, lawmakers are getting a little punchy—literally. The girls are fightingggg.
This week, Representative Tim Burchett, one of the eight Republicans to vote to oust Kevin McCarthy as speaker, was left fuming after McCarthy elbowed him in the back. (McCarthy denies it was intentional.) Meanwhile, in the upper House, Senator Markwayne Mullin challenged a witness at a hearing to a fistfight. And to round out the ill-tempered shenanigans, Representative James Comer, the chair of the Oversight Committee, called Democratic Representative Jared Moskowitz a Smurf.
And that was all on Tuesday.
GOP Senator Kevin Cramer expounded on the bad vibes in Congress, writing the chaotic mood down to the fact that it was just about time to head home for Thanksgiving recess. When I pointed out that most Americans don’t have the luxury of getting cranky just because they’re forced to work multiple weeks in a row, Cramer noted that Congress was filled with strong personalities. (Democrats will mention that this week’s perpetrators were all Republicans, but some of them also have a history of public sparring.)
“There aren’t a lot of shrinking violets in Congress. You got here by telling everybody you’re better than the other person and bragging on yourself,” said Cramer. “It’s not concerning to me. I think it’s plenty entertaining. I tried to keep it a little bit above that myself, but even I’m capable, every now and then, of losing it.”
Other senators were not as equable. Democratic Senator Tina Smith told HuffPost that “this kind of behavior is unacceptable.”
“I actually got up and left before it was over because I was so upset by what Senator Mullin did. It’s a result of people having bad judgment who don’t seem to be able to detach from a policy disagreement,” Smith said.
Men (in Congress) will literally threaten violence in the hallowed halls of the Capitol instead of going to therapy.
What I’m reading
The Confederate general whom all the other Confederates hated, by Eric Foner in The Atlantic
The lie of “deinfluencing,” by Rebecca Jennings in Vox
The final frontier for helicopter parents, by Juno DeMeio in The Cut
What happened to ‘woke’? How the right’s rallying cry faded away, by Dave Weigel in Semafor
What does the Kennedy name mean now? by Maura Judkis in The Washington Post
How Trump and his allies plan to wield power in 2025, by Jonathan Swan, Maggie Haberman, and Charlie Savage in The New York Times
The latest culture war starts with dead whales, by Molly Taft in The New Republic
Pet of the Week
Today’s pet of the week is Sundae Breeze, submitted by Ali Feldman. She’s a very social pup: According to Ali, you can find Sundae on Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok.