A snafu in Congress? Difficult as it may be to give credence to such a notion, here we are.
President Bush vetoed the farm bill yesterday. Given the wide margins by which the bill had passed both the House (318 to 106) and the Senate (81-15), an override of that veto seemed assured.
What’s more, the denizens of Capitol Hill have some time off coming up — they had hoped to get out of town for a week. Those in rural districts especially had probably relished the idea of bringing the farm bill home with them as one brings home a bass after a day of fishing.
Even amongst the usual Bush administration loyalists, there was no appetite for defending the bill. Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.,) the ranking Republican on the Agriculture Committee, said that the veto left him “deeply disappointed” and he urged his colleagues to vote to override.
Wednesday evening, the House did just that. Ah, but here’s the rub. Legislators then realized that there had been a printing error — the bill sent to the president, and vetoed, was missing 34 of the more than 700 pages it should have had.
This poses a dilemma. The Senate could override the veto of the same bill that the House voted on earlier. This would mean that the shortened version would become the law of the land, and the omitted title (those 34 pages — which focus on trade issues) could be addressed again by both houses separately — then either signed or vetoed by the President as a stand-alone bill.
In the alternative, the House and Senate could each vote all over again on the whole bill, with the trade title included. This would have to go back to the President, to be vetoed again (a sure thing, because thatâ€™s what he thoughthe was vetoing yesterday), and then to come back to Capitol Hill for other override attempts.
In the Senate, unanimous consent is necessary for anything procedurally unusual, so they may be working into the weekend to get the mess fixed up.
In the meantime, current farm law expires tomorrow, Friday, so there is also talk about an extension of the expiring law as a stopgap.
This isnâ€™t just the farm bill, we should remember. This is a bill of great importance to the alternative investments industry, through the reauthorization of the Commodities Futures Trading Commission and expansion of its enforcement authority.
That has all been kept waiting â€“ left behind, in effect, at the print shop.
Ah, those wacky solons.