What: All Issues : Aid to Less Advantaged People, at Home & Abroad : Farmers : Emergency agriculture relief (H.R. 2207)/On passage
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Emergency agriculture relief (H.R. 2207)/On passage
house Roll Call 336     May 10, 2007
Y = Conservative
N = Progressive
Winning Side:
Progressive

This was the final vote on emergency aid to farmers affected by extreme weather conditions in many parts of the country, including floods, wildfires and drought. The legislation would provide $4.5 billion in fiscal 2007 emergency spending, including $1.8 billion in crop disaster assistance and $1.5 billion in livestock assistance, as well as $500 million for wildfire management and suppression. The measure also included $425 million funding for rural schools, $60 million for the California salmon industry and $31 million for a milk subsidy program.

The agriculture emergency appropriations bill was originally part of an "emergency" supplemental to fund the Iraq war. President Bush vetoed that legislation because it contained a timeline for withdrawing troops from that conflict. After Bush implied in his veto message that Congressional Democrats didn't have the political wherewithal to pass what he deemed to be an excessive agriculture supplemental separately from the Iraq supplemental, House Appropriations Chairman David Obey (D-Wis.) announced that the House would do just that. Republicans had accused Democrats of using the politically popular farm funding to "buy" votes for the troop withdrawal measure. The rules for consideration for the now-separate agriculture aid bill called for the measure to be immediately combined with the war supplemental, which passed earlier the same day. (See Roll Calls 265, 327 and 333.)

Republican critics of the agriculture aid bill said that it contained excessive non-emergency spending. The White House issued a statement calling it "unnecessary and unwarranted," pointing out that record-high receipts were projected for crops and livestock this year and that federally subsidized crop insurance was already in place to provide a safety net for farmers. The other provisions in the bill were similarly unnecessary, some Republicans said.

Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) said the president's answer to the "slow-motion" natural disasters occurring around the country was, "You are on your own." The Agriculture Department declared nearly three-quarters of all U.S. counties as primary or continuous disaster areas over the past two years, DeLauro continued, but no disaster aid has been given besides funding for hurricane relief on the Gulf Coast.

Obey said Bush had it "backwards because what the president seemed to suggest is that the only legitimate funding for an emergency appropriation would be for the war in Iraq."

"In fact, the war in Iraq should not be funded at all as an emergency appropriation," Obey continued. "After all, it has been around for more than 4 years, despite the President's landing on that aircraft carrier. And the fact is that the President, in order to hide the full cost of the war, asked for that war to be funded in 11 different slices. Those funds should have been provided in regular appropriation bills, not in supplementals."

Obey pointed out that the president declared much of the country a natural disaster area, and that it was Congress' obligation to act accordingly, "and that is what we are trying to do."

In the end, the agriculture relief package passed with the support of 80 Republicans. Five Democrats voted against it. The final vote was 302 to 120, more than enough to override the president's threatened veto, a point that was made irrelevant by the fact that the legislation was immediately attached to the war supplemental, which Bush also threatened to veto (and that Congress did not have the votes to override). Nonetheless, the House overwhelmingly passed legislation to provide federal relief to farmers affected by extreme weather conditions in much of the country, and the legislation moved to the Senate.

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