House Speaker Boehner blames Democrats for tardy U.S. farm bill

WASHINGTON Wed Dec 4, 2013 7:16pm GMT

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WASHINGTON Dec 4 (Reuters) - U.S. House Speaker John Boehner on Wednesday accused Senate Democrats of blocking the path to a new U.S. farm bill that would cut food stamp benefits for the poor and boost crop insurance coverage for farmers.

In a brief speech on the floor of the House of Representatives, Boehner said Democrats were blocking compromise.

"When will they (Senate Democrats) learn to say 'yes' to common ground?" Boehner, an Ohio Republican, asked rhetorically. At nearly the same moment, the four lead farm bill negotiators claimed to have made "great progress" toward a framework after a one-hour meeting.

Debbie Stabenow, the Senate Agriculture Committee chairwoman, when asked about Boehner's remarks, said the comments were "not productive."

"We are just going to work together on a bipartisan farm bill and get things done," Stabenow said.

Congress is more than a year late with the $500 billion bill and is not in a position to finish until January at the earliest, Frank Lucas, one of the key negotiators, said on Tuesday.

The House has proposed $40 billion in food stamp cuts over a decade, nearly 10 times the level contained in the Senate's plan and the biggest cut in a generation.

Stabenow dismissed a suggestion floated by Republican aides this week that negotiators would settle on $10 billion in cuts in order to sign a deal.

"We'll have an answer when we have an answer. It will be good policy," she said.

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