Senate budget spares farm bill

October 4, 2017

By Philip Brasher

Republicans released a fiscal 2018 budget resolution that would clear the way for $1.5 trillion in tax cuts while requiring no reduction in farm bill spending.

The resolution would allow GOP leaders to use the budget reconciliation to pass a tax bill with a simple majority, not the 60 votes normally required to overcome a filibuster. Congressional Republicans joined President Trump this week in proposing tax cuts that include eliminating the estate tax and reducing the top tax rate for farming operations and other small businesses to 25 percent.

“With this budget, the Senate has taken a critical first step to advance a tax overhaul to turn our nation’s economic tide,” said Senate Finance Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah. The resolution would give his committee until Nov. 13 to agree on the details of the tax cut.

The House is expected to vote next week on its version of the budget resolution that would require $10 billion in cuts to farm bill spending over 10 years while also allowing for tax reform. The cut that the resolution would instruct the House Agriculture Committee to make is intended to come out of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. The Senate would have to agree to the reduction and and there are no such reconciliation instructions to the Senate Agriculture Committee in the Senate resolution.

The Food Research and Action Center, a group that advocates for federal nutrition programs, on Friday urged supporters to contact House members and urge them to oppose the House resolution because of the SNAP cut. A FRAC alert also said, “Advocates should also keep an eye” on the Senate resolution because the tax cuts would be “tilted to the wealthy at the expense of programs that serve low and moderate income people,” said a FRAC alert.

The House Freedom Caucus, a group of the most conservative GOP members, supports the resolution even though some of the lawmakers originally were demanding steeper cuts in SNAP and other social programs.

In addition to authorizing tax cuts, the Senate version also would direct the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee to prepare legislation that would increase federal revenue by $1 billion, which would allow for reopening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling.

The Senate resolution includes a procedural provision, a deficit-neutral “reserve fund,” that Senate aides said would protect the farm bill from a budget point of order but doesn’t provide any additional spending.

Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden, the top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, called the budget “a $1.5 trillion-dollar giveaway in tax cuts for the rich that reeks of Republican hypocrisy and flies in the face of fiscal responsibility. These deficit-exploding costs will lead to cuts in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, which the president himself campaigned on preserving.”

From Agri-Pulse

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Category: Agriculture