Senate leader angles to force farm bill vote

WASHINGTON Wed Dec 5, 2007 2:14pm EST

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will call on Wednesday for a Senate vote to limit debate on the $286-billion farm bill, an aide said, in hopes of passing the deadlocked agriculture bill this year.

That means senators would vote on Friday on whether to limit debate to 30 hours on the wide-ranging bill, an aide to the Nevada Democrat said.

"We have tried everything we could to move forward on the farm bill," Reid said in remarks on the Senate floor. The aide said Reid would file the cloture motion later in the day.

Republicans already blocked a motion by Democrats in mid-November to end debate on the bill, which has been stalled since early November over how many amendments should be allowed and what topics will be debated.

The House of Representatives passed its version of the bill in July.

Cloture normally requires 60 votes. "I would hope that we could get a few brave Republicans to say we want to legislate on this," Reid said.

Sometimes a bill is abandoned if cloture fails three times.

With less than three weeks remaining in this year's session, farm groups say it will be impossible for Congress to complete work on a new farm law this year. But they have held out hope the Senate would pass its bill by the end of 2007.

Almost 290 amendments have been filed on the farm bill, Reid said, some of them went unrelated to farm programs, ranging from immigration to taxes to medical malpractice.

Republicans say that by shutting off debate, Reid would prevent open discussion.

Some of the bill's major initiatives include increases to food stamp benefits and support for fruit and vegetable growers, an over $1-billion program to encourage alternate biofuel crops, and a new program to guarantee revenue to grain, cotton and soybean growers.

(Reporting by Chuck Abbott and Missy Ryan; ; Editing by Marguerita Choy)

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