Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Smith and the Farm Bill

by Kyle Michaelis

by: Lisa Hannah

(We know her. We love her. By now, she has to know as much about Adrian Smith as his own mother. She's done absolutely wonderful work with her Smith Watch site, and I couldn't be happier that she's joined us at NNN. Enough from me - let's let Lisa do her thing. - promoted by Kyle Michaelis)

Before I get this going, I first want to say that I think what Kyle has started with NNN 2.0 is fantastic. This really takes the progressive Nebraska Blogosphere to a whole new level. Through this medium, bloggers can really work together to move Nebraska forward, and I am honored to be a part of it……

Much has been said about the passing of the House's version of the Farm Bill. Whatever your feelings on the final product, my focus was on the actions of Adrian Smith.

Adrian Smith showed no leadership on the Farm Bill issue. He contributed only two ideas for the bill, and only one was accepted. He talked big about things needing to be different or better, but never did anything to make those changes or differences that he hinted at. Matter of fact, you'd be pressed to find anything that he was specifically focusing on with his blanket statements.

Smith then joined right in with the party leadership in decrying what they chose to call a "tax increase". What they were upset about was the fact that the House Way and Means Committee closed a tax loophole on multination companies doing business in the US, but that are based in countries we have no treaties with (such as the Caribbean Islands). In closing this loophole, they would have to pay the taxes they SHOULD be paying, but are avoiding through using safe havens. Smith argued this would harm such companies as Swift and McCains, who have manufacturing plants in Grand Island and cost 3rd District residents their jobs. This assertion was false. Those companies are based in countries we have treaties with. During this outcry, I voted to try and adjourn, and when that failed, he voted to prevent the passage of the resolution that set for that tax increase, along with all the rules for the debate of the Farm Bill. If either had succeeded, the Farm Bill would have been delayed. In the end, though, that effort failed.

Smith and the rest of the Republicans failed to acknowledge that needed provisions, such as increases in the nutrition programs, had to be paid for. They failed to offer their own suggestions. They failed to realize that most Americans have actually thought that those companies that find loopholes to avoid paying their taxes SHOULD have to pay their fair share. After all, American businesses have to pay their taxes, why not those companies that base themselves in non-treatied countries in order to avoid those taxes while making a profit off the American people? They failed to acknowledge that those WITH treaties would see little, and more likely, NO impact from this change in the tax code.

Yes, Smith eventually voted for the Farm Bill despite the tax provision, but from moment one he made sure to let everyone know that he's against this tax provision, that it was labeled "partisan" and repeatedly talked about the fact it could be removed in the Conference Committee.

Of course, he's right about that, and if it does, so be it. As long as the PAYGO principals are applied and the end result is still a strong Farm Bill, that will be okay.

But if it isn't, Smith will have to face a choice.
In the past, when faced with issues that would benefit the constituents in his district, but would possibly affect his campaign contributors in a way they didn't like, he ALWAYS voted against his constituents. Most of the First 100 Hours agenda was like this. He voted against minimum wage increase, negotiating for better prices on drugs for seniors, reductions in student loan rates, and even voted, the first time, against implementing the 9/11 Commission recommendations. Not once did he say "well, I'll vote for it even though I'm not quite happy with it, and hope the Conference Committee will make the right changes". Nope, he voted against them on principal - and because he was expected to by his biggest campaign contributors.

But then Smith was faced with the Farm Bill. He knew the pressure was on that he would HAVE to vote for it no matter what because he had been forced to reassure voters he would despite the monetary influence of the anti-ag Club for Growth. But then the tax provision was thrown in. That really put him in a bad position.

Smith had to come out speaking loudly against this tax provision, and standing with the Republicans on that matter. But he also had no choice in voting the way he did. It would be political suicide in Nebraska if he did.

However, he's now set the stage with all his statements that, should the tax provision remain, he will be justified in voting AGAINST THE FARM BILL.

That's right. That's my prediction. He's talked long and hard about the "partisanship", regardless of the fact that the most non-partisan people - the many ag groups that were intent on watching this - are generally fine with the provision. The only "partisanship" that has come out has been the Republicans in this outcry against it. But the fact is that he will then be able to go back to the people of Nebraska and say: "See - the Democrats made me do this with their partisanship", and will blame the other side for forcing him to vote "NO".

In doing so, many will fall blindly in behind him and say "yeah, he's standing on principle". That is - those hardcore in-state Republicans that will never consider voting for anyone with a "D" by the name. Smith will also, then, appease the campaign contributors that are putting pressure on him to reject this Farm Bill, and they will, in turn, promise to pay for over half his reelection campaign.

As Nebraska Farmers Union President John Hansen stated: "The Republicans are looking for a reason to not get this farm bill passed because it makes it harder for them to win back those rural seats they lost in the last election. Partisan politics is playing a role here."

If the Farm Bill does not pass because of this partisan gamesmanship, many will suffer. Especially the farmers, ranchers, and working poor of the 3rd District of Nebraska.

I hope I'm proved wrong. It will be a good day if I am. But if I'm not, let's hope people will have been prepared and will not fall for the spin put forth by Smith and his biggest backers.

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