The squabble over 31 legislative words concerning popcorn subsidies is also symptomatic of the uncertain fate facing the 1,000-plus-page farm bill, because McCain's amendment is only one, as of Friday morning, of about 283 potential amendments to the legislation have been queued up by Senators. And many of those 283 have very little, if anything, to do with the agricultural and nutrition core purposes of the legislation.
Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Stabenow and Ranking Member Roberts continue to negotiate a resolution to the impasse, at the urging of Reid. Both Stabenow and Roberts have expressed optimism at the chances of reaching some accord, and moving the bill forward in the Senate. Stabenow indicated late on Thursday that she expects to be able to to present a consent agreement for completing the farm bill early next week and that she believes "it’s very possible" to win passage of the farm bill without a difficult cloture vote. Earlier in the week, Stabenow told reporters, “Every step of the way, people have said we couldn’t get this done. I would suggest that people not underestimate the number of folks in the Senate who care about these issues, who want deficit reduction, who want reform, who want an agricultural policy that works for our country. And we’re just going to keep on working.”
If the Senate cannot reach agreement on which amendments to consider, the bill could stall despite the strong bipartisan support. Reid is essentially faced with three alternatives for moving the bill ahead this year: (1) hope that Stabenow and Roberts can reach some sort of agreement with each other and among their peers on a select (and manageable) number of amendments that will be considered by the Senate; (2) slog through each and every one of the amendments one at a time (an option that Reid to date has said is not an option); or (3) let the bill die for now, and take it up later in the Congressional session (i.e., following the November election). The last option would require some sort of farm bill extension before the current law's authority expires at the end of September.