Washington Week Ahead: Trump picks eagerly awaited as lawmakers return

By Philip Brasher

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, Nov. 13, 2016 - Lawmakers return this week for a lame duck session that will lay the groundwork for the next Congress, while Washington's attention is riveted on finding out who will get the top jobs in Donald Trump's administration. 

Trump announced his new transition team on Friday, replacing the original leader, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, with Vice President-elect Mike Pence. Sen. Jeff Sessions' chief of staff, Rick Dearborn, will be executive director. 

The first key positions were filled Sunday. Trump announced that Reince Priebus, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, would be the White House chief of staff. Stephen Bannon, the executive chairman of Breitbart News and the CEO of the Trump campaign, was named chief strategist and senior counselor to the president. 

According to the announcement, Priebus and Bannon will be “working as equal partners to transform the federal government.” 

Priebus represents the establishment GOP view, while Bannon and Brietbart News have been a harsh critic of GOP immigration and trade policies. 

Priebus represents the establishment wing of the party, while Bannon has been an aggressive critic of the establishment

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Also on Friday, the leader of Trump's agricultural advisory team, Nebraska agribusinessman Charles Herbster, met with Dearborn on Friday, according to a source familiar with the transition team. It is not known when Trump will name an agriculture secretary, but Herbster and other members of Trump's agricultural advisory team are some of the most likely prospects.

In an email to the campaign's agriculture supporters Herbster challenged them to stay involved with the new administration. “Trump cannot make these changes alone. It will take the unity, time and effort of the entire nation. I challenge each of you to join me and do your part to make your voices heard,” Herbster wrote. 

Mike Torrey, a lobbyist who served as deputy chief of staff at USDA during the George W. Bush administration, is advising the campaign on its organization of USDA. 

Trump, meanwhile, is expected to meet on Thursday with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, even as the Japanese parliament is in the process of approving the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Trump has pledged to pull out of the TPP, and Republican congressional leaders have ruled out considering the TPP during the lame duck session. But Trump reportedly views Abe as an ally in pushing back against China's influence in Asia. 

President Obama also will be meeting with Abe leaders of the other 11 other TPP countries when he arrives this weekend for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum. 

“Obviously we recognize the recent political developments in our country and how that affects TPP, but that's all the more reason for the president to discuss with other TPP leaders the work they've done together and how we're looking at issues related to trade going forward,” said Ben Rhodes, Obama's deputy national security advisor for strategic communications.

Congress will be welcoming the newly elected House members and senators this week, and Republicans are expected to vote on Tuesday to retain Paul Ryan as House speaker. But with TPP off the table, the rest of the lame duck agenda appears to be shrinking. 

The continuing resolution that is currently funding the government expires Dec. 9. GOP congressional leaders had planned to work out an agreement with the White House on spending legislation to cover the rest of fiscal 2017. 

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However, in the wake of Trump's election there are growing expectations that GOP leaders will instead seek another continuing resolution that would fund the government into the first part of next year, allowing time for Republicans to negotiate spending levels and policy provisions with Trump and his new team rather than Obama. 

“American people rose up and resoundingly rejected the status quo,” aid Michael Needham, CEO of Heritage Action, a conservative advocacy group. “Instead of negotiating with a lame duck president, Republicans in Congress must begin setting the stage for 2017.”

Here's a list of agriculture- or rural-related events scheduled for this week in Washington and elsewhere:

Monday, Nov. 14

11 a.m. - Cato Institute forum, “The Way Forward on Trade,” 1100 Massachusetts Ave. NW.

4 p.m. - USDA releases Crop Progress report.

Tuesday, Nov. 15

All day - Science Board to the Food and Drug Administration meeting on the bovine heparin initiative and other issues, Silver Spring, Md.

Wednesday, Nov. 16

National Organic Standards Board meeting, St. Louis, through Friday.

9 a.m. - Biotechnology Regulatory Services stakeholder meeting, USDA Center at Riverside, Md.

10:30 a.m. - Third Annual Summit on Global Food Security and Health Issues, George Mason University Arlington campus,  3351 Fairfax Dr.

Thursday, Nov. 17

NOSB meeting.

President-elect Donald Trump meets with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

8:30 a.m. - USDA releases Weekly Export Sales report.

10 a.m. - House Agriculture Committee hearing, “Past, Present, and Future of SNAP: Opportunities for Improving Access to Food,” 1300 Longworth.

Friday,  Nov. 18

NOSB meeting.

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(Updated at 4 p.m.) 



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