WASHINGTON, June 9, 2016 - House Republican leaders are backing off their promise to allow a wide open amendment process on appropriations bills. The Energy-Water spending bill failed last month when conservatives deserted the legislation because of a Democratic amendment on gay and transgender rights.

House Rules Chairman Pete Sessions, R-Texas, says he’s no longer going to allow the House to debate amendments that are “poison pills.” By saying that, he primarily means amendments that would be so controversial that they would cause Republicans to join Democrats in opposing the spending bills on final passage.

In the first test of the new policy, Republicans are blocking the House from debating the gay rights amendment on the Legislative Branch spending bill, which will be on the House floor today. Allowing the amendment to be considered again would kill the bill, and “that does us no good,” Sessions said.

The new policy on amendments should smooth the way for the House to take up appropriations bills important to food and agriculture interests, including the Agriculture bill which funds USDA and FDA, and the Interior-Environment measure. The Agriculture bill is ready for debate on the floor. The House Appropriations Committee is expected to vote on the Interior-Environment bill next week.

Conaway: Policy first on SNAP, not cuts. Democrats are criticizing the House GOP’s anti-poverty plan as repackaged ideas for slashing welfare assistance, But House Agriculture Chairman Mike Conaway tells Agri-Pulse that the Republican plan steered clear of proposing spending cuts to emphasize the need for new policies that would lift people economically. “If all we do is start every conversation about how much we’re going to cut, then you never actually talk about the policy,” Conaway said. 

The 35-page plan made only a brief mention of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, a reference to the need for work requirements for able-bodied beneficiaries. There was notably no mention of the longstanding GOP proposals to turn SNAP over to the states to run.

Conaway expects to have data by the next Congress from a series of pilot projects that are testing various ways of moving SNAP recipients into employment or better-paying jobs. He says the project results will be used in designing the nutrition title of the next farm bill.

Iowa Senate race: farmer vs. farmer. Hillary Clinton’s historic clinching of the Democratic presidential nomination in Tuesday’s primary elections overshadowed some notable race results in Iowa. Patty Judge, who served as Iowa’s agriculture secretary when Tom Vilsack was governor of the state, won the Democratic nomination to face Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley in November. 

A few Iowa Democrats think Judge is too close to the state’s agriculture interests, but she argued during the campaign that her farm background would allow her to match Grassley when it comes to agriculture experience. Judge won about 47 percent of the vote in a four-person race. She and her family have owned a cow-calf operation in southern Iowa for more than 40 years. 
Iowa congressman Steve King easily won his GOP primary race with 65 percent of the vote. King angered some agriculture and ethanol interests because of his aggressive support for Texas Sen. Ted Cruz in Iowa’s presidential caucuses.

Indian PM gives shout-out to Borlaug. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s well-received speech yesterday to a joint session of Congress included a nod to Nobel Peace Prize laureate Norman Borlaug, whose advancements in plant breeding are credited with saving a billion people from starvation. “The genius of Norman Borlaug brought the Green Revolution and food security to my country,” Modi said. 

Modi also talked about what he said was the mutual benefit of trade between India and the United States. He said he’s committed to improving India’s economy, and that’s going to require a “vibrant rural economy with a robust farm sector.”
But one of Modi’s most popular lines may have been when he noted that 30 million Americans practice yoga. Modi quipped that India had not “yet claimed intellectual property rights” over yoga.

No salt, no sugar? No problem. Cooking without salt isn’t easy, but the corn dish that students at a high school on Chicago’s south side presented yesterday showed it could be done. Marconi Gibson, a senior at the school, was among high school culinary students from big cities around the country who got to show off a range of healthful recipes on Capitol Hill.

The dishes Gibson’s group featured included a spicy corn dish that had no salt, a requirement of the competition. He said that the students used cilantro and lime to bring out the flavors. “You’ll think that it’s salt, but it’s not,” he said. The students were not allowed to add salt or sugar to their recipes, he said. Other dishes included a slaw devised by students in Los Angeles that was seasoned with cumin and lime juice. Students in Houston showed off a Chicken Philly sandwich.

The recipes were produced in a contest sponsored by the Pew Charitable Trusts and the Healthy Schools Campaign to promote healthful school meals. 

Meanwhile, First Lady Michelle Obama has announced the winners of the Healthy Lunchtime Challenge, a nationwide recipe contest that’s intended to promote cooking. The 56 winners, who represent all U.S. states, five territories and the District of Columbia will be recognized at a White House dinner on July 14.

He said it. “Who’s going to define what is a poison pill? I may like that poison.” - Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Fla., complaining that GOP leadership had decided to block consideration of amendments that could prevent spending bills from passing.


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