Senate and House Both Act, But Government Shutdown Still Possible

The Senate approved legislation aimed at avoiding a government shutdown Friday on a party line vote of 54 to 44. The Senate made two highly publicized changes to the bill approved by the House - stripping language that would defund the Affordable Care Act - and shortening the length of the spending measure to November 15th from December 15th. The Senate also stripped the Farmer Assurance Provision. That provision - dubbed the Monsanto Protection Act by its critics - would have remained in place under the stop-gap funding bill approved by the House. The bill then moved back to the House - where another stopgap spending measure was approved Sunday by a vote of 231 to 192. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said House Republicans voted to keep the government open and give working middle class Americans the same one-year delay from ObamaCare that the President has already unilaterally given big business and special interest groups. But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has said the Senate will reject the measure because of the language delaying the Affordable Care Act - and called the House vote pointless. He said Republicans must decide whether to pass the Senate's clean bill or force a Republican government shutdown. A government shutdown would allow USDA Food Safety Inspection Service inspectors to remain on the job - but the Conservation Reserve Program and the Wetlands Reserve Program would stop. A shutdown would also halt funding for the Foreign Agricultural Service's Foreign Market Development Program and the Market Access Program.

Speaking Thursday - Arkansas Senator Mark Pryor not only pressed for congressional passage of the continuing resolution - but also for the fiscal year 2014 Agriculture Appropriations bill. Pryor said the Senate spending bill - approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee in June - would help farmers with operating loans, conservation projects and marketing - among other things. The Senate ag appropriations bill would provide 20.9-billion dollars to USDA and the Food and Drug Administration. The House approved the rule for consideration of its ag spending measure in June. That bill would provide 19.5-billion dollars in discretionary funding.

Senate Ag Committee member Mike Johanns of Nebraska said he couldn't support the final continuing resolution in the Senate because it violated the spending caps set by law. He said the bill approved by the Senate blows the federal spending caps set in the 2011 Budget Control Act by more than 18-billion dollars. Johanns cosponsored an amendment offered by Arizona Senator Jeff Flake to bring the levels in line with the caps - but the amendment did not receive a vote.

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