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Mr. Speaker, let House vote on farm bill

The U.S. Senate passed a new, five-year farm bill by a vote of 64-35.

The House Agriculture Committee passed a new, five-year farm bill by a vote of 35-11.

Both votes showed bipartisan supermajorities in favor. That suggests broad support among the American people for the overall direction that the farm bills embrace.

And that, in turn, means the House leaders should let their committee-approved bill come to the House floor for a vote.

But the leaders are not doing so.

Instead, the Republican leaders are blocking a vote -- and in that, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and other House majority leaders are making a mistake.

For one thing, they're thwarting the will of the people. Sixteen Republicans (including Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D.) joined 46 Democrats and two Independents in voting for the Senate bill.

The House Agriculture Committee vote was even more lopsided where Republicans are concerned. Of the 26 GOP members of the committee, 22 voted for the bill, and only four voted against.

Bipartisan supermajorities of that kind aren't assembled without tremendous public support.

And the House -- the people's House, as set up by the Constitution -- is meant to be the more responsive of the wings of Congress.

More evidence: A bipartisan group of 38 Republicans and 24 Democrats, led by Reps. Kristi Noem, R-S.D., and Peter Welch D-Vt., and counting Rep. Rick Berg, R-N.D., as a member, sent Boehner a letter requesting floor consideration for the bill.

Again, in today's hyperpartisan environment, those kinds of broad and bipartisan coalitions are exceptionally rare. But by refusing to let the bill even to come to the floor for a vote, Boehner is letting a comparatively tiny faction (especially the ultraconservatives within his own party) rule the day.

And that's not the way the U.S. House of Representatives is supposed to work.

Two more reasons to let the bill go to the floor for a vote: First, the bill -- which was more than a year in the making -- would put in place significant and far-reaching reforms. That's the only reason it won the support it did, especially from Republicans.

Second, the current farm bill expires at the end of August. But letting it fail would not end U.S. farm policy, thereby winning a victory for limited government, as conservatives might hope.

Instead, "failure to act means permanent provisions in the Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1938 and the Agriculture Act of 1949 would take effect once again," as the Omaha World-Herald has reported.

In other words, the newspaper continued, "pass something, or you'll send the country back to the 1940s."

And trust us, conservatives would not at all like the FDR-approved, New Deal-era provisions in those permanent laws.

"The United States has the richest, most productive agricultural sector, and the best-fed population, in the world -- perhaps in the history of the world," the Washington Post noted last week in an editorial. Boehner should take the House Ag Committee's bipartisan "yes" for an answer, and let the farm bill come to the floor for a vote. -- Tom Dennis for the Grand Forks Herald