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July 13, 2013

The Conference Committee Fades Away

John Dickerson: "When the bipartisan machine breaks down, it collapses in ways that can be seen and unseen. The saga of the farm bill gives us examples of both. For the last 40 years, the bill has passed through an unofficial agreement between urban liberals and rural conservatives. The former got funding for food stamps and the latter got farm subsidies. Yesterday, the farm bill passed the House without this deal in place. For the first time since the 1970s, the bill did not include funding for food stamps. No Democrats voted for it. The jalopy of bipartisanship has been going through a prolonged collapse. Still, it's notable when the usual death rattle is augmented by a convulsion that throws off a wheel."

"The farm bill episode also highlights a less visible part of the machine that's going kaput... Congressional conference committees are important because they are the mechanism that has often been used to hammer out deals for the most contentious pieces of legislation. They haven't undergone a public undoing like the one at the heart of the farm bill, but they are fading away."


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