The Leahy Letter -- January 2013
Senator Patrick Leahy Wednesday listed issues ranging from immigration reform to renewing the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) among his top priorities for the Senate Judiciary Committee, which he will again chair in the new 113th Congress.
Speaking before students, reporters and others at the Georgetown University Law Center has become a tradition for Senator Leahy at the start of each new two-year Congress. He discussed key issues that he will bring before the committee, which is the Senate’s busiest panel.
On a day in which President Obama and Vice President Obama released White House recommendations to address gun violence, Senator Leahy also announced that he will convene Congress’s first hearing on gun violence since the shootings a month ago in Newtown, Conn. He said the Senate Judiciary Committee’s first hearing on gun violence topics will be held in two weeks, on Jan. 30.
To read Senator Leahy’s full agenda speech please click here.
With the passing of his close friend and mentor, Senator Daniel Inouye of Hawaii, Senator Leahy was sworn in as President Pro Tempore of the United States Senate on December 18, 2013. The President Pro Tempore is a member of the Senate's leadership and is third in the line of succession for the presidency. To learn more about the role of the President Pro Tempore please click here.
As the most senior member of the Senate, Senator Leahy will continue to serve on the Judiciary, Appropriations, Agriculture and Rules Committees in the 113th Congress. He will continue to chair the Judiciary Committee – the Senate’s busiest committee – while maintaining his seniority on other committees. As the most senior member now of the Appropriations Committee he will continue to work on longtime initiatives that he has led, including efforts to help Vermont rebuild after Irene and to energize Vermont’s small towns. The overarching portfolio of the Appropriations Committee will continue to offer him a wide variety of ways to make life better in Vermont, as he has for many years.
The fiscal cliff fix passed by the Senate and House and signed by President Obama on New Year’s Day also includes a ‘dairy cliff’ fix crucial to Vermont dairy farmers, secured during intense negotiations led by Senator Leahy. The package also extends the farm bill through the end of this September.
Senator Leahy’s provisions will continue the MILC safety net program, including crucial "feed cost adjuster" formulas that he insisted be included, which are vital in helping dairy farmers cope with high feed and production costs that have been worsened by drought. Senator Leahy accomplished the difficult negotiations as the Senate’s new President Pro Tem of the Senate and the most senior member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry.
Without the farm bill extension, permanent law dating back to 1949 would take effect in the new year, roiling the marketplace, imposing further uncertainty on farmers and driving up consumer prices for dairy products.
The extension package only delays the need to pass a 5-year farm bill, as Congress has done without fail for nearly 40 years. Senator Leahy and others will continue to push for the new Dairy Security Act that is in the farm bill passed by the Senate last year. A counterpart bill was approved by the House Agriculture Committee, but House leaders refused to bring the bill to the floor.
He said the dairy remedy is only a short-term solution and urged Congress to end the obstructionism and pass a long-term farm bill: "The new Senate should take up the farm bill that was passed last year in a strong bipartisan vote. But most importantly, House leaders need to allow a farm bill to be debated and brought to a vote."
As the Senate package was assembled in the final days of December it seemed that the fix to the feed cost adjuster and payment rate for the MILC extension would be too difficult to make it into the delicate agreement. But Senator Leahy pressed through late-night sessions in a series of intense negotiations on and off the Senate floor. In the end, the MILC program at $7.35 and a 45 percent rate was included, continuing the pre-August 2012 rate until August 2013.
The formula added by Senator Leahy returns the trigger for the feed cost adjuster back to $7.35 from the $9.50 level to which it would have been pegged without his provisions, and it puts the payment rate back to 45 percent, up from 35. Without this change the MILC program would not actually have been triggered to help dairy farmers during this extension of the farm bill.
He pointed out: "Extending the MILC program without a realistic trigger formula would have amounted to an empty promise to farmers who need this help."
The MILC program paid Vermont farmers more than $11 million in 2012, but no payments were made in September or later, when the feed cost adjuster formula expired.
Come March 1, 2013, the U.S. Treasury will complete the process of phasing out paper checks to federal beneficiaries. Those federal benefit recipients currently receiving checks by mail must sign up for direct deposit or establish a Direct Express® Debit MasterCard® account. Those beneficiaries already receiving payments electronically will not be affected by this change. For more information or to register for electronic payments please visit http://www.godirect.org/.
David Carle: 202-224-3693
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