House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson, D-Minn., and ranking member Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., briefed reporters Wednesday afternoon on a proposed framework for the Farm Bill. The proposal, which has bipartisan support in the House, spends $6 billion over the baseline.
"The White House said they wanted us to write a baseline bill," Peterson says. "I said it can't be done. We passed a bill above baseline, the Senate passed a bill above baseline and I told them you put out a bill above baseline. It's not fair for you to come back to me and say that we have to write a baseline bill."
Peterson says they were stuck for four weeks on that position, but what finally cracked things open was the White House saying they agreed that they were over baseline. It was originally scored by the Congressional Budget Office at $8.5 billion, because of the changes in the Omnibus Appropriations Bill and the Energy Bill and rescoring it is now $4.7 billion.
"So this is kind of in between," Peterson says. "I don't know who is right, if it's eight and a half or four-seven, but six billion is what we agreed on. We thought, we're gonna take a shot to see if we can write a bill with six billion, and we have accomplished that."
Peterson and Goodlatte were quick to point out that everything was not locked in. This is simply a way to show everyone this can be done. Peterson says as far as he is concerned everything is still on the table.
Peterson and Goodlatte plan to set down with Senate leaders and the White House to discuss the proposed framework.
"We understand the Senate has concerns with this," Peterson says. "We understand the White House has concerns with this even though was their idea. But we need to get to a number by Friday of how much we are going to spend on this farm bill over the baseline. There is nothing else at this point to talk about."
Both Congressmen stressed the fact that the discussion needs to focus solely on that number.
"It will not work if you ask them to tell us everything you'd like to have in the bill and then add up and see what that number is," Goodlatte says. "You have to start with a number and then write a farm bill around that number. We did it; we've shown it can be done at $6 billion. This is a farm bill that would preserve the safety net for our farmers and would have reforms."
The proposal will cut funding for several programs.
"We believe we have distributed this pain across all areas of the Farm Bill," Peterson says. "We have in my judgment been able to disappoint everybody in this progress and what we're hoping is we've disappointed them all equally."
Based on earlier discussions, Peterson believes the White House will sign a bill that is $6 billion above baseline.
"We've done what they asked us to do, that's all we can do," Peterson says. "I can't control the President, I can't control the Senate. All Bob and I can do is make sure that we are doing our job here in the House as responsibly as we can. This bill is fiscally conservative and if all the rest of the government ran the way we are doing this bill we'd be in a hell of a lot better shape around here."