House voters do deals for peanuts

May 28, 1993|By John B. O'Donnell | John B. O'Donnell,Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON -- "I did my shopping early," the tobacco state congressman said, strengthening the impression that a lot of horse-trading went into last night's House vote.

Rep. Charlie Rose III, a North Carolina Democrat, was describing a deal with the White House that benefits tobacco and peanut farmers, a deal that he claimed swung a handful of Southern Democrats' votes and had "some impact" on another 10 to 15 votes.

"I'm not saying it was the deciding factor because some people around here have a long shopping list," he said.

An agreement aimed at controlling the growth of entitlement programs such as Medicare and Medicaid was critical to passage of the bill. Beyond that, Mr. Rose's agreement was probably the most prominent of what undoubtedly were dozens of deals that were struck to turn or hold votes.

Mr. Rose discussed his agreement after an Ohio Republican's complaint that a last-minute White House concession to peanut farmers would mean that "mothers and children will be forced to pay a higher price for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches."

"It's incredible that six or seven of my colleagues sold out for peanuts," said Rep. John A. Boehner of Ohio.

Mr. Rose said the White House had agreed to consider reversing a 1953 Eisenhower administration decision to eliminate import quotas on peanut paste, the main ingredient in peanut butter. That has turned into a problem for U.S. farmers, he said, because "the Chinese have turned up the peanut factories and have been importing tons of peanut butter through Canada," depressing the prices paid to farmers here.

George Stephanopoulos, the White House communications director, confirmed that the White House was looking at the quota on peanut pastes and that it had been discussing tobacco content legislation. "We're moving in the right direction," he said.

Tobacco farmers also got a boost when the White House "basically agreed" to support legislation requiring a minimum content of domestic tobacco in U.S.-made cigarettes. This is important to protect farmers from the impact of a cigarette tax that President Clinton is expected to seek to finance his proposal for health care reform, said Mr. Rose.

Asked shortly before the vote about "horse trading," Rep. Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland's 5th District, chairman of the Democratic caucus, said: "Horse trading in this institution? I haven't heard about it, but I hope it works."

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