U.S. Congress
9:34 am
Thu January 2, 2014

Castro Sees Challenges Ahead For Congress On Immigration & Farm Bill

U.S. Congressman Joaquín Castro of San Antonio said he fears the nation will not see the passage of several key bills, including comprehensive immigration reform.

Castro said despite majority support for a comprehensive immigration bill, it will be tough to get something passed on Capitol Hill because of rulemaking.

"So really the big issue is: Is the speaker (Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio) going to stick to the Hastert Rule, which says he won’t allow a piece of legislation to come to the floor unless it has the support of the majority of the majority?" Castro said.

Castro said that would require a "yes" vote from the entire conference of Republicans.

"With immigration, it’s interesting," Castro said. "There’s already enough votes for it to pass in the House of Representatives and so if the speaker would allow that bill to come to the floor for a vote, many of us are convinced it would pass."

Castro said another trouble spot is the farm bill, which includes varying cuts to the nation’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also known as food stamps. He said for decades the U.S. farm bill was a staple, a surefire bill that would likely pass, but in 2013 the farm bill didn't pass because of steep cuts to food stamps.

In the last two months of 2013, those relying on SNAP saw their monthly allowance decreased because Congress was unable to pass a farm bill in 2013.

"And so if Republicans insist on cutting $40 billion to the SNAP program then we’re not going to have an agreement on a farm bill," Castro said.

Castro said he is hoping Boehner will allow a Senate version of the bill to come to the House floor, which only takes $4 billion from SNAP.

What's ahead for Castro?

Castro said he filed some higher education legislation that addresses payments on students loans. Castro said his office will also be working to restore the money that was taken away from military pensions as part of the 2013 budget agreement.

"So I, along with many other legislators, filed legislation to replace those cuts to military pensions with something else," Castro said. "And those cuts wouldn’t kick in for the next two years, so we essentially have the next two years to find something else to cut."

Castro predicts that in 2014 there will not be another government shutdown like the one that occurred over federal budget negotiations and an effort to de-fund the Affordable Care Act. He said Republicans are willing to risk another standoff over raising the federal debt ceiling and having the country default on its debt.