The sudden pause was the latest hiccup in what congressional leaders had hoped to be a drama-free stopgap measure needed by Oct. 1, when the new fiscal year begins. None of the dozen regular appropriations bills for fiscal 2021 are close to being completed and passed on time.
Democrats had balked at a push by the Trump administration and Republican lawmakers to pump more than $20 billion into Commodity Credit Corporation funding to make more payments to farmers and ranchers suffering from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, the top Democrat on the Agriculture Committee, said the farm money has been used as a “slush fund” for favored political interests. Democrats stripped the money out of the resolution that was introduced Monday, along with $2.7 billion for a program designed to provide subsidized meals to children who normally receive them when schools are open.
Republicans objected to the decision to strip the funding. Senate Finance Chairman Charles E. Grassley, R-Iowa, told reporters Tuesday that Democrats were “abandoning farmers” by denying them the payments.
The House Agriculture Committee’s top Republican, K. Michael Conaway of Texas, tried to offer an amendment that would restore both the farm payments and the school nutrition program extension, but was blocked by Rules Committee Democrats.