Still no Senate plan for farm bill conference
The Senate left for the weekend with no plan reported yet to go to conference on the farm bill.
The Senate Republican leadership announced late Thursday that the Senate will reconvene on Monday at 3 p.m. and at 5:30 p.m. and will proceed to vote on the nomination of Robert Wilkie to be secretary of Veterans Affairs.
The Senate is also expected Monday to begin debate on a package of appropriations bills including the fiscal year 2019 Agriculture appropriations bill.
But the leadership did not say anything about taking action on the farm bill conference next week.
The House has passed a motion to proceed with the conference and appoint conferees, but the Senate needs to pass a similar motion and appoint its conferees before the conference can begin.
The lack of a Senate announcement makes it unlikely there will be a meeting of House and Senate conferees before the House leaves at the end of next week for its August recess, not returning until after Labor Day.
There was renewed speculation Thursday and Friday that the House and Senate will be unable to finish the farm bill and send it to President Donald Trump before Sept. 30 when the current farm bill expires.
Under the latest round of speculation, the best bet for finishing the bill this year will be in the lame duck session after the mid-term elections in November.
One Senate aide said that in addition to the conflict over work requirements in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the differences between the House and Senate bills over payment limits may also prove difficult to compromise. The House bill eases payment limits while the Senate bill would impose tougher payment limits.
A prominent agriculture lobbyist said that congress may be able to avoid passing an extension if the bill is finished before the end of the calendar year. But that lobbyist did not speak to the issue of programs that are expiring Sept. 30 but would be extended by the new bill.