CONGRESS has passed only 44 substantive bills this year, making the 2013 session one of the least productive in recent history. The yearly average between 1999 and 2012 was 70.
But elected officials could redeem themselves by closing deals on two big measures that affect Washington state: a farm bill guiding the nation’s food and agricultural policy and a comprehensive immigration reform package.
The former affects regional researchers and farmers, as well as low-income families that rely on food assistance. The latter is critical for businesses to maintain a competitive labor force, both in the high-tech sector and in the fields of Washington.
Our delegates should unite and guide both measures to passage before the House plans to adjourn by Dec. 13 and the Senate by Dec. 20.
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After an impasse last year, Congress extended the farm bill until Sept. 30 this year. Much of the funding continued, but ends on Dec. 31.
The sticking point remains cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly known as food stamps. A Senate plan already proposes to reduce funding to the program by $4 billion, on top of a $5 billion cut that took effect Nov. 1 after a temporary boost from the 2009 stimulus bill expired. That’s enough.
House Republicans want even deeper cuts — about $39 billion over 10 years. Such a drastic move would punish low-income families already struggling to eat healthy food.
As for comprehensive immigration reform, the Senate earlier this year passed a package that includes enhanced border security, electronic verification requirements for businesses and a long, challenging path to citizenship for some of the 11 million people living in the U.S. without proper documentation.
House Republican leaders’ repeated promises to solve this problem “piece by piece” ring hollow when they fail to introduce or push a single piece of legislation. Probably because they have no plan. Most Republicans represent districts with small Latino populations and are not inclined to act.
Washington’s Republican delegates don’t have that excuse. U.S. Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Spokane, Doc Hastings, R-Pasco, Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Camas, and Dave Reichert, R-Auburn, understand their districts need immigration reform. Polls show their constituents support it. Why they’re not working with moderates and Democrats to pass a package is beyond reason.
For more than two weeks now, immigration activists have starved themselves on the National Mall to raise awareness.
Elected officials should heed their message. Go back to Washington, D.C. Get some real work done.