WASHINGTON — The Senate voted overwhelmingly Thursday to override President Bush's veto of the farm bill, brushing aside concerns about a technical glitch that led Congress to send the president an incomplete bill. By a vote of 82-13, the Senate followed the House in garnering the two-thirds necessary to make the bill law despite Bush's veto. Congressional leaders said 14 of the bill's 15 sections will now go into effect and they will deal later with the section on trade and international food aid that was inadvertently left out of the bill sent to the president. The House, which voted Wednesday to override the veto, spent hours on Thursday arguing over whether the glitch meant the whole process was invalid because Bush vetoed a bill that was different than the one passed by Congress. The House voted 306-110 on Thursday to pass the entire farm bill again; the House was also planning to approve the missing trade title again as a separate bill and send it to the Senate.
Senators less concernedSenators seemed less concerned about the problem. They declined to take up the full bill again on Thursday after the override vote, and spent little time discussing the error. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, announced that the Senate would proceed with the override and that it was "totally constitutional to do what we're planning to do.” Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Georgia, said there is "a chance we're going to have to pass the whole bill again” when lawmakers return from the Memorial Day recess in June. But he said he was hoping lawmakers and the White House would come to the conclusion that only the missing trade section would need to be addressed. The technical glitch — apparently the result of sloppy proofreading — was just the latest complication in approving the five-year $290 billion bill, which was several months late. The 2002 farm bill expired in September, but its programs had to be extended numerous times while lawmakers and the White House haggled over the complex crop subsidy, conservation and energy programs that make up the agriculture portion of the bill. The House and Senate declined to meet all the president's demands and approved the bill overwhelmingly last week, knowing he would veto it. Bush's strong opposition was a reversal for him, since he signed a farm bill in 2002 that contained most of the same crop subsidies and other programs in the new bill. But he said the bill's farm supports are wasteful at a time when consumers are paying more for food.
About the bill•The new farm bill lowers the income thresholds for people eligible to receive farm subsidies, but not low enough to satisfy the president. •Though it makes small cuts in the annual direct payments to farmers, it raises basic crop supports triggered when market prices are low and it adds a permanent disaster fund to help producers recover from weather-related losses. •The bill makes new investments in the production of cellulosic ethanol, made from non-grain sources like switchgrass. •More than two-thirds of the bill goes to nutrition programs, like food stamps, that are also run by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
How THEY VOTED
Oklahoma's delegation•All five of Oklahoma's U.S. House members voted last week to support the bill, and four of them voted Wednesday to override the president's veto. •Rep. John Sullivan, R-Tulsa, voted against the override because of the technical glitch that led Congress to send President Bush an incomplete bill. On Thursday, Sullivan didn't vote, even though he was present, when the House voted 306-110 to approve the entire farm bill again in case it's necessary because of the omission of a section. •The other four Oklahoma House members voted for the bill. •Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Tulsa, voted for the bill last week and for the override Thursday. Inhofe said, "America's agricultural community has gone far too long without the critical authorizations provided by an updated farm bill. Oklahoma's agricultural community spoke loud and clear about their support of these authorizations.” •Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Muskogee, opposed the bill and missed the override vote because of a funeral.