In early April, Tea Party Patriots noted that President Obama’s awful budget proposal did have a good reformation of one particular spending program. In short, President Obama – following in the footsteps of his predecessor – wanted to change how $1.4 billion in international food aid is bought and distributed by the federal government.
As happened to President Bush’s efforts, however, the idea has quickly been opposed by Members of Congress protecting their agriculture interests. (H/T to Erika Johnsen of Hot Air for highlighting this point.) From The New York Times, however, it appears congressional egos may get in the way more than corrupt special interests, as the proposed policy change would shift responsibility for aid from appropriations subcommittees on agriculture to foreign affairs subcommittees:
Budget experts say Mr. Obama’s proposal will be a tough sell in Congress, where committee members can be parochial and rarely want to give up control of programs.
While it is common for committees to allow agencies to move money from one account to another, experts said it was rare for Congressional appropriators to move money and oversight of a program from one agency to another.
“This is a classic jurisdictional battle among committees,” said Edward A. Brigham, a consultant and former staff member at the White House Office of Management and Budget and at the House Budget Committee. “No one wants to give up their area of control.”
Mr. Brigham said lawmakers could vote to move the money through the appropriations process or just to authorize the change in the next farm bill, which falls under the jurisdiction of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees. Members of those committees have already voiced their opposition to the proposal.
“Food aid is in need of reform for all the hungry people in the world who depend on it,” said David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World, a Christian antihunger group that supports the Obama administration’s proposal. “But it’s going to be difficult to get anything through Congress, particularly because of the jurisdictional issues.”
As Tea Party Patriots legislative expert Bill Pascoe has pointed out, appropriations battles often overcome partisanship, and that is definitely the case here, as opposition is strong in both parties:
During hearings last week, Representative Robert B. Aderholt, Republican of Alabama, the chairman of the House agriculture subcommittee, said he was concerned that removing food aid from the agriculture budget would hurt American farmers.
Representative Sam Farr of California, the committee’s ranking Democrat, also questioned the transfer, raising concerns about the subcommittee losing oversight of the program.
“I’m not endorsing the transfer — the realignment — until there are assurances that the program will remain intact and not be raided by other foreign ops interest,” Mr. Farr said at the hearing.
There has been a similar response from members of the Senate agriculture subcommittee. Senator Mark Pryor, Democrat of Arkansas, the chairman of the subcommittee, along with Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri, the ranking Republican, both said that they were opposed to transferring food aid dollars out of the agriculture budget.
In February, they joined 19 other senators in sending a letter to the president opposing the measure.
Of course, the head of USAID, which would run the program under the proposal, supports it fully:
“This new reform would give us the flexible tools we need to get food to people who need it now, not weeks later,” said Rajiv Shah, the agency’s administrator. “We would still buy from U.S. farmers.”
He added, “But this way we can help feed two to four million more people without additional costs.”
As does the Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, the solid fiscal conservative Congressman Ed Royce of California, whose committee would have jurisdiction:
Representative Ed Royce, Republican of California, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, has criticized the administration’s overall budget proposal, but he supports the food aid change.
“The president’s budget proposal to reform the international food program — helping more at less cost — is a bright spot in the budget request,” Mr. Royce said.
And there you have it. Another example of Washington support and opposition based upon egos and power, not upon what’s best for the nation. Remember this next time either party screams, “It’s for the children!”