Washington, DC—Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid made the following statement today on the floor of the U.S. Senate. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
“Yesterday I came to the floor to express my optimism for the Farm Bill that comes before us this week. I said that this bill is an example of the good that can come when both sides of the aisle work as one. Chairmen Harkin and Baucus, and Ranking Members Chambliss and Grassley have done just that. I also said that this bill would receive floor time for serious debate and amendments.
“Apparently the good work and good faith put toward this bill by Democrats and Republicans does not count for much with President Bush. Yesterday afternoon, Acting Secretary of Agriculture Chuck Connors, announced the President’s intent to veto the Farm Bill – before it has been debated, before amendments have been offered, and of course, before it has been passed.
“Some observers might say, ‘Here we go again.’ The President has now threatened to veto 11 of 12 appropriations bills. Including the Labor, Health and Education bill, which provides crucial funding for schools and medical research. Including WRDA, which passed the Senate with 81 votes.
“I know I am not alone when I say that this latest veto threat of the Farm Bill rings hollow. The Administration now claims to be concerned that the Farm Bill does not reform the current payments system enough. Yet the Bush Administration has had every opportunity to fix the issue of non-farmers receiving farm payments – what they now blame Congress for failing to do. They could reform the ‘actively engaged’ farming payments system right now.
“The Congress passed a bill 20 years ago that reformed that process. Yet an April 2004 study by the General Accounting Office determined that the Bush Department of Agriculture’s track record implementing this reform was half-hearted at best. Let’s be clear: A problem exists in the farming payout structure. We’ve all heard of individuals who live in the city but claim that they are farmers and receive federal subsidy. This Farm Bill begins to tackle that problem – a problem that exists, in large part, because the Bush Administration has failed to address it.
“Now, the President plans to veto a bill that reforms the payment process while maintaining the President’s administrative authority to act on it. This bill takes reform seriously. If President Bush were serious about it as well – rather than just looking for political points – he could be doing something about it.”