What does violence against women have in common with dairy products?

Take a guess. If you guessed congressional inaction then you guessed correctly. The common denominator for all of the issues is obstruction in the matter of doing something about them. In April 2012 the Violence Against Women Act was up for renewal but it was vehemently opposed by conservative Republicans who objected to extending the Act’s protections to same-sex couples. Ultimately the Senate voted to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, and the House eventually passed its own measure — one that struck out the provisions of the Senate bill that would protect gay men, lesbians, Native Americans residing in reservations, and undocumented immigrants who were victims of domestic violence. Where things currently stand is that the two versions of the bill must be reconciled, and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor has ensured that the reconciliation effort has been blocked — thereby leaving a big lingering question mark about reauthorisation.

Moving over to a different issue, remember when our incredibly ineffective, lazy and divisive Congress allowed the Farm Bill to expire? The current farm bill, known as the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008, replaces the last farm bill which expired in September 2007. Staying true to their record of accomplishing little, the 112th Congress managed to let the Farm Bill lapse and they haven’t been able to agree on provisions, clauses or requirements of a new bill. The bill had protections built in for farmers but several of those have already reached their date of expiration. Over the next few months one crucial protection that affects American consumers directly will expire: on January 1, 2013, the dairy subsidy expires. Once again congressional inactivity and/or obstruction is at play.

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack has stated that, ”If you like anything made with milk, you’re going to be impacted by the fact that there’s no farm bill.”  Vilsack further stated that ”Consumers are going to be a bit shocked when instead of seeing $3.60 a gallon for milk, they see $7 a gallon for milk. And that’s going to ripple throughout all of the commodities if this thing goes on for an extended period of time.” So in other words, we’re facing a ‘dairy cliff‘; it’s the agricultural industry equivalent of the fiscal cliff…a completely avoidable event.

As is the case with the Violence Against Women Act, this is yet another case of government dysfunction. Perhaps someone should remind us of what congress accomplished during 2012, because it seems even the simplest issues have become cause for a gridlock alert and it’s affecting citizens’ ability to recall any note of progress.

When Congress passed the five-year Farm Bill in 2008 that funded various agricultural programs, including food stamps and farm subsidies, the expectation was that the Senate would pass a 10-year bill (that reached over $969 billion) this past June. Once again, the House of Representatives hasn’t yet done its job. Why? Because House Republicans continue to disagree about not whether to but by how  will they be able to gut nutrition programs and food stamps (to the tune of $16 billion) over the course of the next five years. If Congress allows the program to expire on January 1st: “Under permanent law (the 1949 bill), government-supported prices would be about four times higher than current law and about twice as high as current market prices.”

So there is the tie that binds these two issues together: Eric Cantor does not want to extend protections that would aid women — especially Native American women so he’s holding up the Violence Against Women Act. Simultaneously, Cantor and House Republicans have thwarted efforts to put measures in place that would protect consumers from further economic uncertainty.

So, taxpayers…got milk? I hope so, because at prospective prices you better savour what you have now as it will be thoroughly unaffordable after Jan 1st if Congress doesn’t act.  and, the lesson to be learned is this no matter which of the two bills were discussing were not safe in the hands of Eric Cantor.