Vacation was a word rarely used in my house growing up. Like most parents in Eastern Washington during the 1900’s, my mom and dad instilled the values of hard work from sun up to sun down. And when I co-wrote the script for the film “The Basket,” I showed the hardships endured by those generations before us to keep the family farm alive. Back then, as it is now, it often took the whole community to come together through back-breaking work, cooperation and even some help from the local banker to keep the business going and food on the table. This type of work ethic is our regional legacy. It’s what gave me the courage to join my friends to start a film production company called North by Northwest Productions in Spokane. We worked together, kept a close watch over our budgets, and never took a vacation until our work was finished.
In my mind, our work ethic guaranteed our success. Why can’t we say the same about the work ethic of our current Congress? Congress has taken more vacation this year than ever before in recorded history. That’s right, including our Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), who is part of the leadership who decided to work only 13 days over the last four months. What kind of work ethic is that?
Our Congress is broken, and the greatest example of its dysfunction is the farm bill. The Senate did its job back in July and passed a five year bipartisan version of the farm bill. The House Agriculture Committee did its job and sent its proposal to the full house. The House leadership, who voted against the last farm bill, blocked the bill from reaching the floor. Our Congresswoman could have done her job and signed the discharge petition along with farm-belt Republicans and Democrats to get the bill on to the House floor for consideration, but instead, you know the answer. She took a vacation. Now Congress won't return to session until mid-November.
Agriculture is a $40 billion dollar industry for our state, employing 160,000 people and making up 1/10th of our state’s economy. The farm bill, which supports everything from crop insurance to milk production, ran out on September 30th, after the Republican leadership in the House blocked a bipartisan effort to pass a new law. This goes beyond affecting the farmers. It affects us all when we buy food. For instance if the Farm Bill is not passed by the first of the year, milk prices could skyrocket past $6 a gallon, according to a new CBS News report.
Right now farmers need a five year plan to secure loans at their local bank for next season. Yet our Congress doesn’t feel the need to meet that deadline. I agree passing five year bills is difficult, but many of us Americans face complicated tasks daily and still see the job through. In our daily lives putting off our responsibilities simply is not an option. Unfortunately, our Congress sees putting off its responsibilities as its only option.
Cathy McMorris Rodgers is the Republican Caucus Vice-Chair, the highest ranking woman in Congress. She could have broken with her Party Leadership and joined other farm state Republicans who did the right thing for their district. Instead she stuck with the Republican House Leadership that voted against the last farm bill. She should have stuck up for us.
In our KSPS-TV debate in October, I asked her why she didn’t take the opportunity on the Farm Bill to “come home a hero.” She responded, “I made my voice clear. I sat down with Speaker Boehner... I’ve written letters making clear my support of the Farm Bill.” Yet, her leadership fell flat.
It begs the question – Where’s Cathy’s interest? Is it in representing us or the Republican Party back in that “other” Washington?