To buy more time for farm bill talks, the House is expected to take up this week a short-term extension of current law through January.
Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has already signaled he is open to this option and a vote could come as early as Wednesday on the suspension calendar.
This is the second such extension Congress has been forced to take up since the 2008 farm bill expired almost 15 months ago. But the circumstances now are very different.
Last year at this time, the House had yet to even act on a farm bill and a long-term extension was needed through this past September. The legislative process is much farther along now—albeit still tortured. And there is a genuine hope that a House-Senate conference can report a farm bill back for final action in January.
Veteran lawmakers, like Minnesota Rep. Collin Peterson, the ranking Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee and its chairman when the 2008 law passed, would argue that no extension is truly needed under these conditions.
But the leadership is sensitive to the fact that the dairy program runs out at New Year’s. Republicans don’t want to be hearing—as they did last year— about milk prices spiking.
With the House due to go home Friday for the holidays, the plan is to extend the expired law for the remaining three months of this calendar year and through January. The end date happens to be the opening of the annual holiday of Tet in Vietnam.