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Jugs of milk on store shelf.
How dysfunctional is the House of Representatives? This dysfunctional, and it's not even about the fiscal cliff curb. For months and months, House Speaker John Boehner has refused to bring the farm bill to the floor for a vote, held hostage by his caucus that has been locked in a battle over how much food stamp recipients should be punished. For the first time in modern history, the House is poised to fail on a farm bill.

It's so bad that House Agriculture Committee Chair Frank Lucas (R-OK) has negotiated his own agreement, apart from leadership, with Senate Chair Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) to try to stave off the worst impact of a failed farm bill by extending the current bill and replace dairy programs that expire with the end of 2012. Without some replacement for those dairy programs, the law reverts to a decades-old formula that could result in milk prices tripling within weeks. And yet:

[T]he House GOP has yet to endorse the committees' extension agreement, and leaders are also considering two narrower extension bills: a one-month extension and an even smaller bill that would merely extend dairy policy. As of Sunday night, Republican leaders had not scheduled a vote on any of them. [...]

A spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner said Sunday that Republican leaders had not decided how they would proceed on the farm extension, though a vote could come as soon as Monday.

The fight over the farm bill, and specifically milk price supports, reflects larger problems Boehner is having with his caucus. Boehner and Lucas are in all-out public war over the program Lucas has come up with for fixing the dairy issue.
The sparring between the two men continued in a meeting of the full GOP conference Sunday night, where Boehner again laced into the dairy program. But Lucas — the traditional “good soldier” for his party—held his ground. And the back-and-forth illustrates the problems facing the GOP as it tries to untangle itself from the milk crisis brought on in large part because of Boehner’s refusal to allow floor debate in this Congress on a full-scale, five-year farm bill.

“We need to take positive action to put this issue to rest,” Lucas told reporters. “And make sure that it is clear to everybody in this country that the farm bill policy has certainty and we will not have eight- or nine-dollar milk.”

If we have $8 or $9/gallon milk, that's John Boehner's fault, just to be clear. It'll be a great thing to wash austerity down with.

Originally posted to Joan McCarter on Mon Dec 31, 2012 at 10:38 AM PST.

Also republished by Hunger in America and Daily Kos.

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