Washington Week Ahead: Congress awaits Obama's budget request

By Derrick Cain

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, March 3, 2014 - Lawmakers are expected to focus on Tuesday's release of President Obama's fiscal year 2015 budget request, which could include additional disaster assistance funding for floods, drought, and wildfires.

Obama's proposal is expected to request that the Interior Department and USDA's Forest Service be allowed to use Federal Emergency Management Agency disaster funding to assist with wildfires, according to media reports. Also, Obama may request a $1 billion fund to help communities deal with extreme weather events.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will hold a briefing on Obama's budget request Tuesday to provide details on how the proposal may affect USDA.

Lawmakers stand ready to dig into the proposal as the Senate Finance Committee and the House Budget Committee will hold hearings Wednesday on the proposal. Also on Wednesday, the House Appropriations Committee's Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies will hold a hearing on the request. This will be followed by a House Ways and Means Committee hearing on Thursday.

Separately, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., is expected to release a welfare reform report today which may offer a preview of the upcoming GOP budget proposal. Ryan's report is expected to focus on cash aid, education and job training, energy, food aid, health care, housing, social services, and veterans affairs, according to media reports 

In the Senate this week, lawmakers may take up the issue of sexual harassment in the military, as well as a potential minimum wage increase.

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Also, the Senate Agriculture Committee will hold a hearing Thursday to consider Timothy Massad's nomination to serve as chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. The committee also will consider two CFTC commissioner nominations: Sharon Y. Bowen and J. Christopher Giancarlo. Massad currently serves as the Treasury Department's assistant secretary for financial stability. If confirmed by the Senate, Massad would fill the post vacated by Gary Gensler.

Meanwhile, the House is expected to consider a number of bills to address the increase in home heating costs. Lawmakers will debate bills that aim to make it easier to transport propane to areas with shortages, expedite federal permitting for energy construction projects, and curb “excessive” EPA regulations of electric utility plants.

The week's tentative events include:

Monday, March 3.

12:00 p.m. USDA Report: Amber Waves magazine

2:00 p.m. The Senate will convene for three hours of morning business.

5:30 p.m. The Senate will proceed to a vote on a cloture motion on the nomination of Debo Adegbile to serve as assistant attorney general.

Tuesday, March 4.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will hold a briefing on the fiscal year 2015 budget.

10:00 a.m. The House will meet for morning hour debate.

10:00 a.m. The House Agriculture Committee's Subcommittee on Horticulture, Research, Biotechnology and Foreign Agriculture will hold a hearing to review the Smith-Lever Act on its 100th anniversary in 1300 Longworth. Sonny Ramaswamy, director of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture at the USDA is a scheduled witness.

12:00 p.m. The House will meet for legislative business.

3:00 p.m. USDA Report: Dairy Products

Wednesday, March 5.

10:00 a.m. The House will meet for morning hour debate.

10:00 a.m. The House Appropriations Committee's Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies will hold a USDA budget hearing in 2362-A Rayburn. Phyllis Fong, USDA inspector general, is a scheduled witness.

10:30 a.m. The Senate Finance Committee will hold a hearing on President Obama's fiscal year 2015 budget proposal in 215 Dirksen. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew is a scheduled witness.

12:00 p.m. The House will meet for legislative business.

2:00 p.m. The House Budget Committee will hold a hearing on the president's fiscal year 2015 budget in 210 Cannon. Sylvia M. Burwell, director of the Office of Management and Budget is a scheduled witness.

3:00 p.m. USDA Report: Broiler Hatchery

3:00 p.m. USDA Report: National Dairy Products Sales Report

3:00 p.m. USDA Report: Announcement of Class and Component Prices

Thursday, March 6.

Deputy Agriculture Secretary Krysta Harden will address the Association of Women in International Trade's Agricultural and Africa Committees in Washington, D.C.

8:30 a.m. USDA Report: Weekly Export Sales

9:00 a.m. The House will meet for legislative business with last votes of the week expected no later than 3:00 p.m.

9:00 a.m. The House Energy and Commerce Committee's Subcommittee on Energy and Power will hold a hearing on “Benefits of and Challenges to Energy Access in the 21st Century: Fuel Supply and Infrastructure” in 2123 Rayburn.

9:30 a.m. The House Ways and Means Committee will hold a hearing on President Obama's fiscal year 2015 budget proposal in 1100 Longworth. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew is a scheduled witness.

10:00 a.m. The House Appropriations Committee's Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies will hold a Commodity Futures Trading Commission budget hearing in 2362-A Rayburn. Mark Wetjen, acting CTFC chairman, is a scheduled witness.

10:00 a.m. The Senate Agriculture Committee will meet to consider the nominations of Timothy G. Massad to serve as chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, Sharon Y. Bowen and J. Christopher Giancarlo to serve as CFTC commissioners in 328A Russell.

3:00 p.m. USDA Report: Trout Production

Friday, March 7.

Acting Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Wendy Cutler will deliver remarks on the Trans-Pacific Partnership and implications for agricultural trade in the Asia-Pacific region at the Virginia Governor's Conference on Agricultural Trade in Richmond, Va.

3:00 p.m. USDA Report: Peanut Prices

4:00 p.m. USDA Report: Latest U.S. Agricultural Trade Data

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