A House leadership plan to rush a multibillion-dollar Farm Credit System (FCS) bailout bill to approval by the end of next week stalled yesterday when Republican objections blocked the measure in the Agriculture Committee.
Chairman E (Kika) de la Garza (D-Tex.) was forced to adjourn the committee before work could begin after Rep. Edward R. Madigan (R-Ill.), the ranking Republican member, objected that the meeting conflicted with other legislative action on the House floor.
Yesterday's sudden and uncharacteristically bitter development clouded prospects for quick resolution of the FCS request for a $6 billion line of credit, which it says it must have this year to avoid collapse.
The committee met again last night in an effort to break the deadlock.
The chairman had put the bailout effort on a fast track, bypassing the usual drafting procedures at the subcommittee level, after Speaker Jim Wright (D-Tex.) warned that a crowded legislative calendar would make consideration of the FCS bill nearly impossible after the August recess.
But Madigan, Rep. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) and other Republicans contended that the effort to speed the aid package through the House had prevented them from studying details of a draft bill prepared by the committee staff.
De la Garza said that the draft provided "an engine and a caboose" for a plan to provide quick federal assistance to the beleaguered FCS, but that it was up to the committee to "fill the cars."
"In my district, with the Dalton gang, we usually hold up trains until we see what's in them," Roberts said. "I thought we would have a vehicle in a bipartisan fashion. . . . Both sides did not see the concept paper until last Friday, and I didn't get a copy of the bill until last night at 11:30 . . . . I don't like this procedure."
Saying he was "a little bit taken aback by the hurry-up process," Madigan wondered "what kind of railroad is this?" He complained that points agreed upon by both sides in meetings last week had disappeared from the bill offered yesterday by de la Garza.
The Illinois Republican said the disagreements ran so deep that it was not clear whether the FCS needed $4 billion or $6 billion to remain solvent. Other disagreements involved a proposed secondary market for real estate loans and a section dealing with Farmers Home Administration farm loans.