Washington Week Ahead: Another government showdown in the works?

By Sara Wyant

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

WASHINGTON, Sept. 25 - Lawmakers have through Friday, Sept. 30, to pass a stopgap funding bill or the federal government will be headed for another shutdown.  But before that deadline arrives, expect another round of finger-pointing between Democrats and Republicans about who is to blame and eventually, some type of compromise.


Last week, the GOP-controlled House passed a continuing resolution (CR) that would provide funding until Nov. 18, but their plan was opposed by Democrats in the Senate over funding for federal disasters. In order to force the Senate to accept its bill, the House adjourned Friday for a weeklong recess, with no apparent plans to return this week.

“The President made his request for the Disaster Relief Fund, we doubled that request and did it in a responsible manner and sent it over to the Senate,” noted House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in a statement. “Harry Reid now says he won't take that bill up. Harry Reid is arguing with himself. This is why people don't like Washington.”

The House-passed bill would provide about $3.65 billion in disaster aid, with $1 billion available for fiscal 2011 immediately upon enactment. The Federal Emergency Management Agency said Friday that its Disaster Relief Fund had only $175 million remaining to help disaster victims and that those appropriations could run out early this week.

 Together we can feed the Bees

The $1 billion would be more than offset by eliminating $1.5 billion for Energy Department loan guarantees to automakers for the production of fuel-efficient vehicles. In order to win over enough Republican votes on Thursday, the House leadership added another $100 million in offsets that would come from a Dept. of Energy loan guarantee program that was used to fund what is now the bankrupt California solar-energy company, Solyndra.


Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said the House bill is not “an honest effort at compromise. It fails to provide the relief that our fellow Americans need as they struggle to rebuild their lives in the wake of floods, wildfires and hurricanes, and it will be rejected by the Senate.”


The Senate will vote Monday on its own CR, which is identical to the House version except that the bill does not offset the disaster spending.  Leader Reid will need seven GOP senators to vote with all 53 Democrats to win the 60 votes needed to clear any procedural hurdles. But Reid faces an uphill battle, even though 10 Republicans voted for disaster aid that was not offset by other spending cuts when the Senate voted over a week ago. Since that time, more Republicans have been leaning toward the House version.


Other hearings and events scheduled for this week:


Monday, September 26

9:00 a.m., Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources oversight field hearing on "Jobs at Risk: Community Impacts of the Obama Administration's Effort to Rewrite the Stream Buffer Zone Rule." 407 Virginia Street East, Charleston, West Virginia

9:30 a.m., Senate will resume consideration of the motion to concur with respect to the House message to accompany H.R.2608, the vehicle for the Continuing Resolution and FEMA funding.


Secretary Vilsack will host a White House Business Council event to highlight the American Jobs Act and do a MyPlate event to highlight the ”Make Half Your Plate Fruits and Veggies” with specialty crop producers and nutrition advocates in Sacramento, CA


Deputy Secretary Merrigan will host a press availability on Hurricane Irene recovery efforts in Westminster, VT. She will also tour storm damage at Robb Family Farm at Brattleboro, VT


USDA Reports: Poultry Slaughter, Monthly Milk Cost of Production, Crop Progress

Tuesday, September 27

Secretary Vilsack will host a White House Business Council event to highlight the American Jobs Act and hold a press availability in Portland, Oregon. 


Agriculture Deputy Secretary Merrigan will give remarks and tour a new construction project at the Brattleboro Food Co-op in Brattleboro, VT. She will also hold a press event to introduce initiatives in Sustainable Agriculture at Greenfield Community College and highlight the public/private partnership between USDA and FINE (farm to institution in New England) and tour the Franklin County Community Development Corporation (FCCDC), which has entered into contracts with local farmers in Greenfeld, Mass. 

Wednesday, September 28

Secretary Vilsack will host a White House Business Council event to highlight the American Jobs Act and hold press availability in Seattle, Wash. 


Deputy Secretary Merrigan will join Congressman Jim McGovern for a roundtable with farmers and several farm tours in Medway, Holliston and Westborough, Mass.


USDA Reports: Broiler Hatchery, Quarterly Hogs and Pigs

Thursday, September 29

3:00 p.m., Agricultural Statistics Board releases the Potatoes 2010 Summary. The summary includes production, farm disposition, value, and stocks by state as well as the utilization of the 2010 U.S. potato crop.


USDA Reports: U.S. Export Sales, Agricultural Prices, Peanut Stocks and Processing

Friday, September 30

Deputy Secretary Merrigan will interview with FoodCorps, a new AmeriCorps program dedicated to building new school gardens and incorporating Farm to School programs into public schools in ten states and Washington, D.C.


USDA Reports: Rice Stocks, Grain Stocks, Dairy Products Prices, Small Grains Summary, Egg Products, Peanut Prices, Fruit and Tree Nuts Outlook


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