WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville, is one of the 12 House Republicans selected to serve on a House-Senate conference committee charged with writing a new farm bill.
Davis, according to his office, is the only freshman member of the House on the conference committee and is the first congressman from this area to serve on a farm bill conference committee since Rep. Tom Ewing in 1996.
"I'm truly honored being the only freshman being named to the committee. I'm really appreciative of Chairman Lucas' support and our entire conference's support," Davis said of his appointment by Rep. Frank Lucas, chairman of the House Agriculture Committee.
Davis said he didn't know when the committee would begin its work of resolving the differences between the competing farm bills. Chief among the differences is a much larger cut in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program in the House bill.
"The conference committees seem to be more of a rarity here in Washington than they used to be. I'm excited. This is my first chance to be on one," said Davis. "It's also an opportunity to remind members, many of whom have served longer than I have, about what a conference committee means. It means sitting down in a bipartisan way and coming up with solutions, which is what's being missed right here in Washington.
"I hope this conference committee really delves in and finds some common ground because if we can, it could be the role model for getting agreements in the future that are good, common-sense solutions. I hope and pray that this doesn't turn into another political, partisan disaster like we've seen over the last few weeks."
Davis said he's "probably just a little more pessimistic right now after what I've seen over the last few weeks from both parties."
The current farm bill expired on Sept. 30, Davis said, and Republican members of the House want to get to work quickly.
"Because come January that's when you see the effects of the dairy programs expiring and you'll see skyrocketing milk prices," Davis said. "And farmers who participate in the (Conservation Reserve Program), they have to worry about getting their CRP payments."
Meanwhile, Davis said he's hopeful that Congress can strike a debt ceiling agreement and a deal to fully reopen the government this week.
"I'm optimistic that we'll get something done before Thursday because I just don't think the American people can handle another missed deadline," he said.
But he charged that President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid were being "obstinate" in order "to take political advantage" after an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll last week found that a majority of Americans blame the Republicans for Washington gridlock.
"They want to take advantage of what was portrayed in the numbers of the Wall Street Journal poll," Davis said. "I think many folks in central and southwestern Illinois would agree that the wrong question gets asked in those polls. It's not who do you blame. Frankly the question should be asked, who don't you blame? I think they'd blame everyone and rightfully so."