McCain mocks farm bill pork on Senate floor

(CBS News) Armed with posters and puns, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., took to the Senate floor Thursday to lay out his top 10 biggest gripes with the millions of pork dollars he alleges are springing up "overnight" in the $969 billion farm bill.

Building on a list of top-10 "ugly" pork projects he debuted on his Twitter account Wednesday, McCain kicked off his presentation Thursday calling out $15 million set aside to study the sheep industry, and $10 million to eradicate feral pigs: "I've always been against pork spending, but now we're gonna spend $10 million to establish a new USDA program to eradicate feral pigs," he said.

The puns kept coming. Mocking a proposed $91 million over 10 years to subsidize popcorn - "I'm not making it up," he said - the famously candid fiscal hawk cracked, "There isn't a kernel of evidence that they need this subsidy."

"And I know that mothers all over America that have advocated for their children to eat their peas," he continued, "will be pleased to know that there's a study that's going to cost them $25 million to study the health benefits of peas, lentils, and garbanzo beans."

McCain accounts for several of the more than 200 amendments weighing down the bill. A 90-8 vote Wednesday to officially begin debate in the Senate opens the way for what could be several weeks of attempts to amend proposed legislation that spends some $100 billion a year on crop insurance, conservation and nutrition programs.

The measure would save $23 billion over a 10-year period from current spending levels. Some savings would come from eliminating the current system where farmers get paid directly regardless of whether they actually plant a crop. It would be replaced with greater stress on subsidized crop insurance and a new program that would compensate farmers when revenues from planted fields fall below levels as determined by a five-year average.

While the bill "generates $23 billion in savings," McCain acknowledged Thursday, he lamented that "it seems that Congress's idea of a farm bill reform is to eliminate one subsidy program only to invent a new one to take its place."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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