Sparring political factions on Capitol Hill struck a compromise yesterday that would allow the House Agriculture Committee to continue work on a federal bailout of the Farm Credit System (FCS) but would not put it on the fast track envisioned by Democrats.
The compromise was reached after Rep. Edward R. Madigan (Ill.), ranking Republican, invoked parliamentary procedures for a second straight day to stop committee consideration of a bill that GOP members complained they had not had an opportunity to study.
Committee Republicans, torn between Farm Belt constituents' concerns about the troubled FCS and White House objections to some provisions of the bailout package, also grumbled that the fast-track procedure was a veiled Democratic move to boost their political fortunes before the August recess.
They contended that Speaker Jim Wright (D-Tex.) and Majority Whip Tony Coelho (D-Calif.) had conspired to speed up the farm-credit bill in a bow to the presidential campaign of Rep. Richard A. Gephardt (D-Mo.), who plans to spend much of Congress' August break in Iowa. Coelho laughed in response to the allegation.
Under the agreement, reached yesterday with Coelho participating, the committee will complete its consideration of the FCS bailout next week and, rather than acting before the recess as had been planned, the full House will deal with it after Labor Day.
Rep. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) said, "We gain time to thoroughly understand what's in the bill -- in the hope that a cleaner version with amendments would be acceptable to the administration . . . . If we are going to sell this to the administration and a skeptical Congress, we had to have a bipartisan effort."
Beyond deciding on the shape of the table, as it were, the committee didn't get far on the bill, approving only minor amendments on a section that would apply to Farmers Home Administration borrowers and discussing potential cost of the FCS rescue and ways to finance it.
FCS officials insist that the system, which holds about a third of the nation's farm debt, will need access to a $6 billion line of federal credit to avoid collapse this year. But they said first and second quarter losses for 1987 apparently were below projections.