Election Recess Delays Farm Disaster Aid Bill

Democrats try to bring aid bill to the House floor, push scaled-down aid bill in Senate.

As Congress enters the campaign season recess, attempts to pass an agriculture disaster aid bill will have to wait until November at the earliest. Democrats in both houses pushed for aid bills before the recess, but in both cases failed to win enough Republican support.

Senator Kent Conrad, D-N.D., introduced a scaled-down aid bill, subtracting the section that would have given $1.9 billion to farmers and ranchers for increased energy costs, but still failed to muster unanimous consent to bring it to the floor.

The Bush administration had opposed the energy cost aid because it did not help those who had suffered weather-related disasters. The slimmer version of Conrad's bill would spend $4.9 billion to compensate farmers and ranchers who had been victims of weather-related disasters in 2005 and 2006. Several Republicans joined Democrats in support of the bill.

In the House, Democrats continue to gather signatures for a discharge petition that would force consideration of an agriculture disaster aid bill. So far, 198 Members of Congress have signed the petition, with 218 needed to oblige Republican leadership to allow debate and a vote on farm disaster aid.

Proponents of disaster aid remain positive.

"We are disappointed that it wasn't addressed this week, but we certainly will not give up on the fight to get disaster assistance out to our farmers and ranchers," says Rep. Collin Peterson, Ranking Democrat on the House Agricultural Committee. "We are going to keep reaching out to Republicans and Democrats from across the country to be sure that we get a deal that will keep our rural communities afloat as they recover from disaster."

"At some point, we are going to get a vote and we are going to win," says Conrad.

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