Oskaloosa.com

CNHI/Southeast Iowa

July 30, 2013

Loebsack talks farm bill, NSA during Ottumwa visit

OTTUMWA — Rep. Dave Loebsack said on Monday two factors pose serious hurdles to getting critical legislation, including a farm bill, passed before the 2014 political campaigns will likely block progress.

A five-year farm bill that would have cost a half-trillion dollars but cut $2 billion annually from food stamp programs failed in the House in June.

Loebsack, in Ottumwa for a tour of the city's water plant, said time is dwindling before the congressional summer recess. If Congress fails to advance a farm bill before then, as seems likely, he said it will leave very little time between the members' return to Washington, D.C., and the September deadline for the most recent farm bill extension.

That leads into Loebsack's second concern, which he called “the general dysfunction of Congress.” Getting anything accomplished is a challenge, let alone getting something produced on the scale of the farm bill in the time left.

Loebsack isn't convinced nothing will happen, though he said Congress must be willing to have meaningful discussions on the issues in order to produce results.

The same goes for the National Security Administration surveillance programs, which have come in for criticism from members of both parties. An amendment proposed last week would have restricted the circumstances in which the government could collect information. Loebsack voted for the amendment, which failed in a 205-217 vote.

The vote was closer than many expected, and Loebsack believes it could be a starting point for changes.

“I think we have to start a conversation,” he said. “Congress has to take more of a role.”

Even that won't happen quickly, though. Loebsack said Congress needs to hold hearings on domestic surveillance and must establish oversight on those efforts.

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