Washington Week Ahead: In search of sequestration solutions

By Derrick Cain

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

WASHINGTON, March 3, 2013 - President Obama and top lawmakers are expected this week to continue to try to iron out an agreement to end the large across-the-board federal department cuts that took effect on March 1.

The sequestration is likely to amount to a between 5 percent and 9 percent reduction in USDA funding, but several programs, like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the Conservation Reserve Program and crop insurance are all exempt.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has repeatedly said the sequestration will lead to a reduction in food safety inspections and other cuts. Vilsack has said furlough notices for many USDA employees will be sent out this week.

Both the House and the Senate will be in session, and there is certain to be a lot of finger-pointing. House Majority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., have fired off several missives critical of Obama and top Democrats.

“After thwarting every bipartisan attempt to avert his sequester, the president is ready to make it bite as hard as possible,” McConnell said. “He'll say he has no choice but to release criminals into the streets and withhold vaccines from poor children. And somehow, it will be everyone's fault but his. Nonsense.”

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House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., and other Democratic lawmakers, have issued their own salvos against Republicans.

“These extreme and irrational across-the-board spending cuts could have a devastating effect on our economy and national security, harming international and domestic programs that affect our seniors, children, business owners, veterans and military personnel,” Hoyer said. “While Democrats have introduced balanced alternatives to replace the sequester in both the House and Senate, Republicans have failed to propose a single alternative and refused to bring the balanced Democratic solution to the House floor for a vote.”

Meanwhile, the House Agriculture Committee is scheduled Tuesday to hold a hearing on a review of the state of the rural economy with Vilsack scheduled to be the main witness.


Monday, March 4.

12:00 p.m. The House will meet for morning hour debate.

2:00 p.m. The House will meet for legislative business.

2:00 p.m. The Senate will convene and proceed to a period of morning business.

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

5:00 p.m. The Senate will proceed to an executive session to consider two judicial nominations.

5:30 p.m. The Senate will vote on the judicial nominations.

6:30 p.m. The House is expected to vote, under suspension, on the Senate amendment to the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Reauthorization Act (H.R. 307).

Tuesday, March 5.

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

10:00 a.m. The House Agriculture Committee will hold a hearing on a review of the state of the rural economy at 1300 Longworth. Vilsack is scheduled as the main witness.

10:00 a.m. The House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security will hold a hearing in 2141 Rayburn House Office building on enhancing American competitiveness through skilled immigration.

11:00 a.m. The House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipeline and Hazardous Materials will hold a hearing in 2167 Rayburn on “Freight and Passenger Rail in America's Transportation System.”

12:00 p.m. The House will meet for legislative business, and consider two bills under suspension. The first bill (H.R. 668) would require the president to provide a cost estimate per taxpayer of the annual budget. The second bill (H.R 338) would target tobacco smuggling in U.S. territories.

4:00 p.m. USDA Report: Weekly Weather and Crop Bulletin


Wednesday, March 6.


9:30 a.m. Senate Judiciary Committee will conduct an oversight hearing on the U.S. Department of Justice in 226 Dirksen.

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

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

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

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


Thursday, March 7.

8:30 a.m. USDA Report: U.S. Export Sales

9:00 a.m. The House will meet for legislative business.

10:00 a.m. The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will consider the nomination of Sally Jewell to be interior secretary at Dirksen 366.

3:00 p.m. The House is expected to conclude votes for the week, including a vote on the FY 2013 defense spending bill.

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


Friday, March 8.

12:00 p.m. USDA Report: Cotton, Grains, Oilseeds and World Agricultural Production Data

12:00 p.m. USDA Report: Crop Production

12:00 p.m. USDA Report: World Agricultural Production

12:00 p.m. USDA Report: Oilseeds: World Markets and Trade

12:00 p.m. USDA Report: Grains: World Markets and Trade

12:00 p.m. USDA Report: Cotton: World Markets and Trade

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

4:00 p.m. USDA Report: Livestock and Meat Trade Data

4:00 p.m. USDA Report: WASDE

4:00 p.m. USDA Report: Seasonal Average Price Forecast

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



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