WASHINGTON, Nov. 9, 2012- During a press conference today, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, reiterated that he would not soften his party’s principles to appease Senate Democrats and President Barack Obama’s wishes for higher tax rates on those earning more than $250,000.

In this lame duck session, Congress must address the “fiscal cliff” compromised of massive spending cuts and raised taxes scheduled for the end of the year by finding a compromise to address the federal deficit. 

“The problem with raising the top tax rates is more than half of them are small business owners,” he said. “And we know it would slow down our economy. Raising tax rates will slow down our ability to create the jobs that everyone says they want.”

Boehner insisted there is a path to compromise in his willingness to address raising revenue by reforming the tax code. However, compromise on a tax package to avoid the “fiscal cliff” looks rocky. President Barack Obama also made comments today, stating that the election proved voters agree taxes must be raised on the wealthy.

“I’m committed to solving our fiscal challenges, but I refuse to accept any approach that isn’t balanced,” Obama said. “On Tuesday night, we found out that the majority of Americans agree with my approach.”

The president said he invited congressional leaders to the White House next week to begin negotiations.

“If we’re serious about reducing the deficit, we have to combine spending cuts with revenue -- and that means asking the wealthiest Americans to pay a little more in taxes,” he added. “I was encouraged to hear Speaker Boehner agree that tax revenue has to be part of this equation -- so I look forward to hearing his ideas when I see him next week.”

American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) President Bob Stallman speculated earlier today on paths for a farm bill within these fiscal cliff discussions.

“It’s conference-able,” he said, regarding the two existing five-year packages that passed the Senate and House Agriculture Committee. “We could move quickly if political leadership decided to move in that direction.”

“We need a political decision made very quickly,” he said, noting it is unlikely that a new, five-year bill will be completed in the lame duck session on a stand-alone basis.  

Sen. Debbie Stabenow, Chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, today continued her effort to finalize the farm bill process in the lame duck session.

"Americans could not be more clear that now that the election is over, they want us to work together to create jobs and reduce the deficit,” she said. “If Congress can work together to pass the Farm Bill, it will create the trust and momentum we need to overcome gridlock and solve the challenges our country faces.”

Regarding programs within the farm bill, Stallman said disagreement over nutrition program funding is the main thing to be settled. He explained that Congress could extend expired programs like dairy by attaching them to a tax package and tackle a complete five-year bill in the first months of 2013. 

However, he emphasized that a full, one-year extension “doesn’t work,” because the budget baseline will not exist for direct payments, which are eliminated in current farm bill reforms.

“If we have to have a short-term extension for the first part of Congress, we’ve dealt with that before,” but a one year extension presents major budget issues, he explained. “The further we kick this down the road, the worse it gets for agriculture.”

Among his immediate concerns is that the farm bill will be ignored within the greater discussions of fiscal cliff solutions during the lame duck session. “We also stand the risk of people looking at the farm bill as part of a money pot that can be tapped,” he added.  

“Agriculture has already given a lot, probably more than most sectors,” he said.

Stallman concluded that “when political leadership makes a decision that they want to get something done, they will craft a path for that to happen. The problem is it hasn’t happened yet.”

This story was updated 11/9/2012


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