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Congress at Work for December 2013

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Congress at Work: Farm Bill, etc.

With so much attention surrounding the launch of the Healthcare Marketplace Exchange and the cancellation of millions of health care insurance policies, very little significant legislation has passed as a result. For example, remember how 2013 was going to be the year to tackle tax reform? Even the current farm bill – scheduled to expire in 2012 but extended until January 2014 – has not made much headway and may well be this year’s cliffhanger legislation for Congress to pass before year-end. The following is an overview of current legislation on the docket.

 

Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013 (H.R. 2642)

Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2013 (S. 954)

The farm bill is a five-year bill that sets the budget of multiple agriculture and nutrition programs designed to expand new opportunities and create a reliable safety net for farmers and ranchers, including a strong crop insurance program. Most of the debate is focused on an issue that does not specifically pertain to farming – the nation’s food stamp program. The House wants to reduce funding for the SNAP program by $39.0 billion over a 10-year window, while the Senate is supporting a $3.9 billion reduction. Both the Senate and the House have passed their own versions of the farm bill, but they have not been able to agree on a compromise.

Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability Act of 2013 (S. 1271) – Directs the President to establish guidelines to measure and monitor U.S. foreign assistance. The legislation would make foreign assistance information publicly available on a country-by-country and program-by program basis. The committees assigned to this bill sent it to Congress for consideration on Nov. 14.

Digital Accountability and Transparency Act of 2013  (H.R. 061) – Known as the Data Act, this legislation would make the Treasury Department responsible for maintaining a publicly accessible website detailing spending data for all federal funds. The Act would establish government-wide financial data standards for federal funds with the goal of consolidating and reducing the amount of financial reporting currently required. This transparency should detect and remediate waste, fraud and abuse in federal spending. The Act was passed by the House on Nov. 18 and headed to the Senate.

Federal Lands Jobs and Energy Security Act (H.R. 1965) – The purpose of this legislation is to reduce the red tape required for onshore energy permitting and leasing to facilitate oil shale development for American energy security. The bill would reform the leasing process for onshore oil and natural gas projects on federal lands to eliminate unnecessary delays. The Act was passed by the House on Nov. 20 and headed to the Senate.

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