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Fri., Oct. 9
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Down at the debate -- farms, politics at issue


I wanted to expand on a thought that was cut for space and time considerations from Wednesday's paper about the debate in Queensbury.
There's a bit of a tempest on a tractor about the farm bill — specifically, who's responsible for the fact that it has stalled out. Rep. Bill Owens, D-Plattsburgh, says it's up to Republican leadership to bring the bill to a vote in the House (it passed the Democratic-controlled Senate already and awaits action in the Republican controlled House). Matt Doheny, his Nov. 6 opponent, says that more Democrats ought to support the farm bill.
Here are the facts: Earlier this summer, the House Agriculture Committee voted to approve the bill, 35-11. But Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, a longtime critic of previous farm bills who described certain aspects of the most recent iteration "Soviet-style," has declined to bring it up for a vote.
The No. 2 in the chamber of Rep. Eric Cantor of Virginia.
And by mid-October, both Mr. Cantor and Mr. Boehner will have come to Watertown to campaign for Mr. Doheny. Mr. Doheny and Mr. Owens both want the farm bill to go through — its expiration means that subsidies and insurance programs for dairy farms in particular will dry up.
Mr. Boehner has said the bill will come up after the Nov. 6 election, but that will be too late for farmers who need help now, advocates and lobbyists say.
And here's where my story begins from last night:
As a glancing blow to Mr. Doheny – perhaps the only time that Mr. Owens was on the offensive, a stark contrast to Mr. Doheny's more aggressive style – Mr. Owens suggested that somebody should ask Mr. Boehner or House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., to bring the bill up for a vote. Mr. Cantor is coming to Watertown in early October for a fundraiser and a business tour with Mr. Doheny. Mr. Boehner already visited.
“I equally encourage you to ask Nancy Pelosi to support the bill,” said Mr. Doheny, referring to the House Democratic minority leader of California. It's the Doheny campaign's contention that part of the reason the farm bill hasn't come up for a vote is because not enough Democrats support it. (He said later that he would encourage Mr. Cantor to bring the farm bill up for a vote.)
“I thought it was ridiculous,” Mr. Owens said after the debate of Mr. Doheny's mention of Mrs. Pelosi and other Democrats. “We don't control what comes to the floor. … This is a bipartisan bill. We're prepared to deliver (80) bipartisan votes. (The Republicans) won't do the same thing. That's, in my view, a very weak copout.”

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