Washington week ahead: No end in sight for budget battles

By Jon H. Harsch

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

WASHINGTON, April 11 - Relief over the last-moment deal which cancelled Friday's threatened federal government shutdown is only very temporary relief. That's because the partisan warfare over the relatively minor agreement on fiscal 2011 funding very likely will be dwarfed over coming weeks by further budget battles. It's also because the deal reached remains skeletal. Details are still being worked out by staff although House and Senate votes on the resulting legislation to fund the government through Sept. 30 are planned for Wednesday or Thursday this week.

Both the House and Senate are expected to approve the deal although some lawmakers waiting to read the FY 2011 deal's details say they're not ready to indicate how they intend to vote. Some like Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind. say they don't expect the cuts to be deep enough to win their support.


Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., addressing a March 31 Tea Party rally on Capitol Hill. Photo: Agri-Pulse.

On the larger battles ahead, first, this week the House is scheduled to vote to approve the fiscal 2012 federal budget resolution proposed by House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan, R-Wis. Ryan's proposal would include sharp spending cuts for core federal programs including Medicare and Medicaid, with overall cuts averaging some $600 billion per year over the next ten years. That compares with the hard-fought $38 billion in spending cuts agreed to in the final compromise worked out last Friday for fiscal 2011.

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Next will come the battle over raising the federal debt ceiling which must be raised no later than July 8th to enable the federal government to continue borrowing to cover its debts. Treasury Secretary Geithner expects the debt ceiling to be reached around May 16 - a guarantee that dealing with this issue will be a hot topic this week and until some resolution is achieved.

Also on the troubled budget front, President Obama is expected to announce his own long-term deficit-reduction plan this week. The White House aim is to present an alternative to Ryan's budget-cutting approach which leaves Defense Department spending untouched and proposes to cut taxes although other proposals such as the Simpson-Bowles report argue that revenue increases must be part of any realistic deficit reduction plan.

Along with House and Senate floor action on budget issues, committee schedules are packed with hearings which cover a broad range of issues including last year's Dodd-Frank financial reform law, rural credit conditions, migrant farm workers, and renewable fuels. (See the selected list of congressional hearings below.)

Even while House Republicans continue their efforts to rein in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency by limiting authorities and cutting funds, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson will travel to Rosemont Elementary School in Maryland Monday to mark the 9th annual “National Healthy Schools Day.” The focus will be on EPA programs designed “to ensure that kids are breathing clean air in the places they go to learn.”

Other key events and meetings this week:

Monday, April 11

  • Interior Sec. Ken Salazar delivers an energy policy address at George Washington University.

  • USDA reports: Oil Crops Outlook, Rice Outlook, Cotton and Wool Outlook.

Tuesday, April 12

  • Senate Banking Committee hearing on Building the New Derivatives Regulatory Framework: Oversight of Title VII of the Dodd-Frank Act, with witnesses including SEC Chair Mary L. Schapiro and CFTC Chair Gary Gensler.

  • Senate Environment Committee hearing to examine a review of the nuclear emergency in Japan and implications for the U.S.

  • National Farmers Union Spring Legislative Fly-In, Tuesday through Thursday, for NFU members to meet with their members of Congress to discuss NFY policy positions.

  • Farm Foundation Forum on the future of the Land Grant university system.

  • USDA reports: Wheat Outlook, Feed Outlook, Latest U.S. Agricultural Trade Data.

Wednesday, April 13

  • National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) Legislative Action Conference, with over 100 pork producers flying in to lobby their members of Congress.

  • House Agriculture Subcommittee hearing on Implementing Dodd-Frank: A Review of the CFTC's Rulemaking Process.

  • House Agriculture Subcommittee hearing on the state of the poultry industry.

  • House Judiciary Subcommittee hearing on whether the H-2A Visa Program is Meeting the Growing Needs of American Agriculture.

  • Senate Environment Committee hearing to examine domestic renewable fuels, focusing on ethanol and advanced biofuels, with testimony from Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

  • Senate Finance Committee hearing to examine perspectives on deficit reduction.

  • USDA reports: Livestock and Meat Trade Data, Sugar and Sweeteners Outlook, U.S. Agricultural Trade Data Update, Broiler Hatchery.

Thursday, April 14

  • Final day of NPPC Legislative Action Conference.

  • Final day of NFU Legislative Fly-In.

  • House Agriculture Subcommittee hearing to review credit conditions in rural America.

  • G20 finance ministers meet in Washington.

  • USDA reports: Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry Outlook, Aquaculture Data.

Friday, April 15

  • House Natural Resources and House Oversight subcommittees joint hearing on The Border: Are Environmental Laws And Regulations Impeding Security And Harming The Environment?

  • USDA reports: Meat Price Spreads, Dairy Products Prices, Hatchery Production - Ann., Peanut Prices, Potato Stocks, Turkey Hatchery.

To add your event to our calendar, please e-mail us at: jon@agri-pulse.com

For other Agri-Pulse news stories, go to: www.agri-pulse.com


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