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Congress: Farm bill passage expected

“Congress is on the verge of dramatically overhauling federal farm and nutrition policies affecting a broad range of issues, from how food is packaged and sold to how the government helps poor people pay for their groceries,” the Washington Post reports. “After three years of arduous haggling, the Senate is expected to give final passage Tuesday to a new five-year farm bill that the House passed last week. President Obama is expected to sign it when it gets to his desk. The $956.4 billion package has sailed through Congress in recent days with little opposition, making it a rare bipartisan accomplishment in an otherwise rancorous and unproductive era.”

AP: “Congress is poised to send a massive, five-year farm bill that provides food for the needy and subsidies for the nation's farmers to the White House for President Barack Obama's signature. The Senate was expected to pass the almost $100 billion-a-year compromise bill Tuesday; the House passed it last week. The bill provides a financial cushion for farmers who face unpredictable weather and market conditions, while also continuing to subsidize services for rural residents and communities who have hit hard times in recent years. The majority of the bill's cost is food stamps, which supplement meal costs for 1 in 7 Americans.”

NBC’s Tom Curry: “The biggest and most publicized portion of the bill is nutrition assistance, mostly food stamps, which will be cut by $8 billion.” More: “The Congressional Budget Office says the bill will cut deficits by nearly $17 billion, compared to prior law. Last year’s House version of the farm bill would have gone much further, cutting deficits by $50 billion.”

Robert Costa: “Republican leaders have narrowed their list of possible debt-limit strategies to two options: trading a one-year extension for approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, or trading a one-year extension for repeal of the Affordable Care Act’s risk corridors. Both plans, which were first discussed last week at the House GOP’s annual retreat in Cambridge, Md., will be debated further Tuesday morning, when House Republicans meet at the Capitol. House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) is said to be open to either approach, as long as it can win heavy GOP support.”

National Journal: “Members of Congress and their aides took more free trips around the world in 2013 than in any year since new restrictions were put in place after the Jack Abramoff influence-peddling scandal.”

Legistorm’s analysis: “Lawmakers and their staff broke a record for taking the most privately funded trips since 2007, when reforms came into effect after a major lobbying scandal. In 2013, members of Congress and their staff made nearly 1900 trips costing $6 million, breaking the record for the most privately sponsored travel since rules were tightened in 2007. By comparison the previous post-reform high was 2011, when privately financed travel cost $5.8 million for 1600 trips.”

Time: “In just four months, Republicans have shifted their Obamacare strategy from “repeal” to ‘repeal and replace.’ That’s a twist in tone and policy ahead of the 2014-midterm elections that recognizes the public’s weariness of government obstructionism and approval of some aspects of the health care law. The Republicans’ move is a politically savvy calculation, after three years and 47 votes in the Republican-controlled House to defund and dismantle the law, plus a government shutdown led by Obamacare-obsessed members that sank the party’s approval ratings to record lows.”