"Thank God, we can do something!"
That's a quote from by Rep. Tom Rooney, a Republican from Florida, as he walked off the House floor Thursday after the final vote that pushed a split farm bill through.
This tongue-and-cheek humor just about says it all about the U.S. Congress as we know it today. Congressmen are even making fun of themselves.
But how much was really accomplished this week?
Sure, the bill passed, which I suppose is progress, but a split bill? We needed a fire hose and got a squirt gun.
Passage of this bill, which puts off a battle over food stamp spending, does nothing more than give Republicans in D.C. something to boast about after failing to pass a real farm bill in June. Instead of eating the crow, they sneaked it to the dog under the table.
It also shows how out of touch Congress is.
"This piece of legislation was hatched in the middle of the night with no input from groups and brought to the floor under a closed rule, which ensures we have a harder path forward in trying to get anything done," U.S. Rep. Tim Walz, a Democrat who represents Minnesota's 1st District, said in a teleconference Friday.
To break up the union between the nutrition and farming communities is not a good idea. Here's my suggestion for future farm bills: Just let rural lawmakers deal with it - they're the least out of touch, it seems. They're the ones more closely affected by farm bills, and the ones who know what's best for all Americans, especially rural Americans and farmers who raise the food that eventually winds up in our grocery stores, on our tables and on our food shelves. Let the Collin Petersons and Tim Walzes of the world take the lead and leave the John Boehners out of it.
What does Boehner know about crops, nutrition and conservation? What does he know about people who rely on food stamps?
The fact that Minnesota's Peterson and Walz aren't on board with a bill that actually focuses mostly on farm supports should remind us all how freakishly messed up our political system in Washington is.
That's the problem with politics in D.C. Is it corrupt? Of course it is. But beyond that, we have high-ranking policymakers who have probably never even stepped foot in a corn field making key decisions on ag policy. I know there is more to farm bills than corn and soybeans, and dairy cows and John Deeres, but city-slicked politicians have no place voting for these types of bills; they probably wouldn't mind being freed of the responsibility of voting on such measures. Let urban lawmakers who consider the Midwest nothing more than fly-over country deal with immigration reform and gun control; let rural lawmakers handle the ag, conservation and nutrition stuff.
To me, that makes perfect sense, perfect common sense.
We want compromise from our elected officials, or at least an attempt at it. This split farm bill does not scream compromise. Doesn't even whisper it. It almost seems as if Republicans and Democrats, sticking true to their aversion toward one another, purposely avoid having to compromise like a little brother and sister avoid standing too close to one another for a family photo.
I do believe there is strength in numbers, but when it comes to voting on certain bills, more is not merrier. Washington needs to do what lawmakers did to the farm bill: split its members up - not by political party, but in terms of whom they represent. We should be able to trust our rural politicians to treat both sides of a farm bill equally to assure that not just farmers are taken care of, but the working poor as well who rely on assistance like food stamps.
In other words, Washington needs to regionalize its policymakers into four sectors - the East, South, Midwest and West - like an NCAA basketball tournament bracket. Each region would have a representative or two at the table who checks their party affiliation at the door. Why does a politician's political background carry so much more weight than where they're from does? Peterson and Walz represent Minnesota, not Democrats from Minnesota.
Take Peterson. He is a conservative Democrat to be sure, but why do you really think he continues to dominate elections in the second most conservative district in the state? Because he knows farmers, that's why. Farmers are in a comfort zone with him and are OK spending their vote on him. And not just because his name rings a cow bell.
The House and Senate will now put their heads together to patch some kind of farm bill together, and we have no idea what it will look like.
"The politics are all wrong," Walz said about the House bill. "This bill means nothing and has no ability to attract votes in the Senate."
This should be interesting.