Congress faces agenda of unfinished business
The bill’s only real chance for passage is if lawmakers decide to use its savings as part of negotiations on the ‘‘fiscal cliff.’’ The Senate bill would save $23 billion over 10 years and the House Agriculture Committee bill would save $35 billion over 10 years.
Otherwise, the bill will be extended into next year. Some Republicans have suggested a yearlong extension, but farm-state members and farm groups have said they would prefer a shorter extension to keep the pressure on for passage.
Though much of the work was done on the bill this year, it stalled this fall because of disagreements over food stamp spending. House leaders refused to bring the bill to the floor before the election, saying it didn’t have enough votes.
Republicans have internally disagreed over cuts to food stamps, which make up about 80 percent of the half-trillion-dollar bill’s cost over five years. The Senate bill would cut about $400 million a year out of the program’s almost $80 billion annual cost while the House bill would cut about $1.6 billion from food stamps annually. Conservatives have said neither version makes deep enough cuts.
Legislation setting defense policy remains undone, and the House and Senate Armed Services committees were working informally in recent weeks on a bipartisan bill that both chambers could pass.
The House approved legislation months ago, but the Senate hasn’t acted. The freestanding Senate bill has attracted more than 70 amendments and Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., is pressing for a time agreement that would limit amendments.
Republicans and Democrats will meet Wednesday morning in the Senate to decide leadership jobs, with Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, expected to move up to the GOP’s No. 2 spot, replacing Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., who is retiring.
In the House, Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., and Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., are vying for the No. 4 job.
The biggest question in the House ranks is whether Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., remains in her leadership job.
Associated Press writers Jim Abrams and Mary Clare Jalonick contributed to this report.