Based on her reasoning for voting for last October's federal government shutdown, South Dakota Congresswoman Kristi Noem's vote in favor of a compromise budget resolution is a triumph of the improbable. Nothing structural has changed, fiscally, in the budget that she rejected along with a pack of Congressional anarchists last October, garnering enough votes to bring the entire federal government to a halt. The same outside, ultra-rightist organizations lobbied as hard as they did the last time to get their handmaidens in Congress to go along with their Tea Party-endorsed slash and burn budget that left no room for compromise. And of course the right wing media kept up its steady barrage of my-way-or-the-highway diatribes. That Noem was able to buck this pressure, along with enough of her fellow Republicans, and vote yes for the compromise budget crafted by negotiators from the House of Representatives and the Senate was a sign that reality may be creeping back into Republican thought processes these days. The compromise budget passed easily in the House and should also clear the Senate.
Noem of course took a ferocious amount of home-state criticism after her votes last October. I really don't think it dawned on her that shutting down Mount Rushmore and other national parks during the heart of the Autumn tourist season may not have been the brightest move in the world. On top of that, winter storm Atlas shrugged its mighty shoulders and tore up the state so badly that tens of thousands of cattle and other livestock died in their tracks, perhaps the single biggest economic catastrophe to hit the state since the dust bowl days of the Depression. Financially shell-shocked ranchers, needing some immediate relief, found that the federal offices that could help them out were all shuttered thanks to the shutdown that Noem and the rest of the Republican Party's political suicide squad engineered. Bad move, that, one that is only partly mitigated by Noem's vote for yesterday's compromise bill that should keep another shutdown crisis from occurring, if it does, for a couple of years.
I say "partly mitigated" because Noem's next chance at some political redemption comes up soon when the long delayed new Farm Bill finally gets hammered out. This bill, well overdue for renewal by a factor of more than a year, has been stalled because Noem and her fellow Tea Party-stoked Republicans are insisting on stripping away the Food Stamp (technically the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP) component of the bill and considering it separately, the general upshot being that Food Stamps can then be used as the next political football over which Congressional forces can fight. Most Democrats and a number of moderate Republicans don't want that to happen, ergo the long-running standoff that has resulted in frustrating delays for ranchers and farmers, in particular, because they have to make planting decisions soon based on how the Farm Bill shakes out. I only hope that Noem, who by yesterday's vote seems to have re-evaluated her basic assumption that national Republican initiatives are not always the best thing for her South Dakota constituents can understand that for every dollar spent on Food Stamps, a buck-seventy's worth of economic activity is generated. In this case that economic activity is directed at the entire food production chain, starting out with farmers and ranchers.
Supposedly the new bill will be crafted and voted on in the early weeks of January, and there's no hint of how any compromise, if any, is shaping up. My hope is that Noem will convince us that she's indeed a born-again representative and come up with reasons to devise and support a plan that will do her home state the most good, not one that will gain approving assent by a national cabal of ultra-rightists who will insist on draconian cuts in food stamps.