The following is commentary from Mike Adams, host of AgriTalk Radio:
I've been traveling to our nation 's capital for many years now, and it's a fascinating city. I always enjoy going, and I always enjoy getting out of there.
I enjoy the monuments and museums, obviously. And I enjoy the political process when it's working but more often than not these days it's not working.
We were there in an interesting time last week–really an historic time to see what was going on. You had the confirmation hearing for supreme court nominee Neil Gorsuch, a confirmation hearing for ag secretary nominee Sonny Perdue, and then of course kind of overshadowing everything was the battle over the health care replacement bill.
I want get into that in just a moment because we got to be behind the scenes on some of that. I had an interesting viewpoint.
But I wanted to say there were some positive things from our trip too. We met Ray Starling. He is the special assistant to the President for agriculture. This is not a new position; it's been around for a while, but it has not been filled in a number of years. So even though we did not have a USDA secretary in place yet, there is an ag voice at the White House.
I think that's important, and Ray Starling is very, very impressive young man.
He's from North Carolina, has an FFA background and is very passionate about agriculture. And you come away from him impressed. There been a lot of questions about you know “who does Donald Trump listen to?” Hopefully he listens to people like Ray Starling on agriculture issues. You kind of get the feeling that he does. This this seems like a symbolic thing or maybe not a real important thing, but when it was brought up about having a proclamation from the President from the White House supporting agriculture on Agriculture Day sometimes getting something like that done can take a month, With Ray Starling urging the President, they were able to get that done in like two or three days and a very strong proclamation made. We were told it was finalized while they were on Air Force One.
So obviously Ray Starling has earned a line to the President. And that could be ver,y very helpful moving forward, so I thought that was a positive. Ray Starling assured us that this administration would not use agriculture as a pawn in trade negotiations; not use agriculture in an effort that we would have to give up something in agriculture in order to get gains in some other area. So hopefully that will be true and there it was good to hear that.
We'll see how it plays out in the days ahead because a lot of questions and concerns about trade.
Another positive was that we sat down with two members of the house agriculture committee: Democrat Tim Walz from Minnesota and Republican Rick Crawford from Arkansas. These two men are obviously a friends. They have a willingness to work together and the ag committee–the ag committees. I should say on both sides house and senate–still seem to be about the last places where you see much of a bipartisan effort in Washington D.C.
To see these two members from opposite parties sit down say, you know we acknowledge differences but let's find common ground. How can we work on these things in this next farm bill, and it was it was refreshing to see that it can still happen.
It may not be very widespread but at least there 's a spark there that hopefully will ignite it and grow because we need to see more of it.
We did not see it on the health care battle. Now this was interesting Thursday, of course it was all built up that was going to be the vote. We were in meetings with Missouri 's congressional delegation. The republican members were explaining to us, and did a good job of explaining how this was going to be a three part process to work through it and the deal with the senate rules and things like that. But they had a first pass this first part in the House and how they were working on getting those votes. We talked with and heard from members of the Missouri delegation very active in trying to whip up those votes.
And then all the sudden with the word came down that a meeting that they had scheduled at Thursday morning had been canceled. That was a bad sign
Sam Graves Missouri congressman said there that you know that's not good. Turned out it was not. Later that morning we sat in the house gallery and looking down on the house floor where that vote was supposed to take place that day, and course it turns out that it didn't. The floor was empty.
And that kind of spoke volumes for how it was all going up going to play out. Thursday night we were walking by the capital and saw the light on where members of at the house the republicans were meeting to try to try to figure out what they were going to do. It became obvious–this was interesting to me–this this was political theater at its highest level.
We were talking with house members, Republican house members, they did not know how it was going to come out. They didn't know when there was going to be a vote. Those meetings were taking place at a very high level. So it kind of shows how the process works. Even those involved directly in it sometimes are kind of out of the loop.
So then of course, Friday comes as the big showdown, the build up. Would they have enough votes. Would there be a vote. When it would be. And it turns out, of course, they didn't have the votes, so they didn't have the vote.
There's a lot of blame, I think, on both sides here. The republicans have had seven years to come up with a replacement for Obamacare. And where did they come with– a bill of a replacement plan that even their own party wouldn't get behind and support. So that was a failure. And to me very frustrating.
On the other side there's a lot of blame because the vibe that I felt in Washington by the established bureaucracy and certainly the Democratic party was that anything that this President and this administration proposes they're probably going to fight and be against. Just about anything I think that he proposes they are going to fight against.
We're seeing it now with the Neil Gorsuch nomination process in that hearing.
Just find some reason, whether it’s a good reason not, to oppose this because it's coming from Donald Trump. A lot of wounds; a lot of scars. There are a lot in people Washington still not accepting an outsider coming in and trying to make changes. So nothing in that kind of environment gets done.
It's about as toxic of a political environment as I’ve ever seen of the many years and I’ve been going to Washington D.C. No willingness to reach across the aisle. No willingness to try to work out compromise. It's just dug in; heel's in the sand; we’re not budging and we're not going to try to fix anything we’re just going to keep you from getting anything done.
When you’ve got that kind of an atmosphere and environment, well then you have more gridlock and not less. We have been dealing with gridlock in Congress for years now on things not getting done and for those that had hoped that it would be better it's not. And just because one party has the White House and the House and the Senate we’re seeing that's not a solution either. There’s no unity, there’s not enough unity within the Republican party to overcome their differences to push something forward even with the majority. There’s no willingness by hardly anyone on the other party to come across the aisle and dare be seen as someone who would try to find common ground.
Once again, in my opinion, our country is being held hostage by the far left in the far right. We can't get to that middle ground and get something done. I find that extremely frustrating.
We were talking with the chairman of the Senate ag committee Pat Roberts. Sitting in his office and he was talking about the Gorsuch confirmation and his frustration with some of the things that were being said and questions were being asked. That as he felt, and many of us felt, were way off base and really didn't really have anything to do with whether not he was qualified to be Supreme Court Justice or not. And Senator Roberts used his visit the phrase in the way he called it, his fellow members of congress and especially in the Senate over that they were acting like kids in a sandbox. And I thought that's a pretty good description. Although as I thought about it more over the weekend, that's not fair to kids because kids probably in many cases act more mature than members of Congress are acting right now.
I realize we are a divided country on a lot of issues and Congress to certain extent reflects those divisions. But when you send people in Washington D.C. it's to find solutions and answers and ways to work through our differences and find common ground.
Many, many years ago Abraham Lincoln running for the senate here in my state of Illinois citing scripture warned of the dangers of a house divided. And now we're dealing with those dangers very much today: a very divided country over a lot of important issues.
Until these people in Washington D.C. and really from the rest of us in this country find ways to find out what we have in common rather than what divides us is going be hard to get anything really moving forward.
Congress has a very full plate and it seems like the fuller the plate the less they get done.
And we saw an example that last week. Now it's on the tax reform in a lot of other things. You have to wonder are they going to be able to get through all this ill will and be willing to put those differences aside for what 's best for the country.