By Sara Wyant

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

WASHINGTON, May 2 - Congress returns from a two-week Easter recess on Monday amid

growing concerns over government spending and the importance of raising the federal debt ceiling later this month – but with no clear signs of compromise on the horizon.

The Senate's bipartisan “Gang of Six,” including Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) and fellow Sens. Mark Warner (D-Va.), Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), are continuing to hammer out the details of a deficit reduction deal, but they aren’t providing details.

Sen. Conrad said the group has made “enormous progress” and he’s optimistic they will unveil a plan in the near future. "If we don't, we're simply not going to be relevant," he said on Fox News Sunday. The North Dakota Senator also said he will not support a long-term increase of the $14.3 trillion cap "unless there is a credible and serious plan to deal with the debt." 

The congressionally-established $14.3 trillion limit on borrowing is expected to be breached around May 16, but Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said the government will be able to stave off a default until July 8.

As the deficit reduction debate plays out, Democrats and Republicans will also be trying to address escalating gasoline prices. Prices at the pump are edging toward an all-time record national average of $4.11 a gallon and both parties are expected to spend a significant amount of time this week offering their own versions of solutions. Look for the GOP-controlled House to focus on expanding offshore oil drilling, while Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid plans to introduce legislation ending tax breaks worth billions of dollars for major U.S. oil companies.

For more events this week:

Monday, May 2

The House and the Senate are in session at 2 p.m.

The National Association of Farm Broadcaster’s kick off their annual “Washington Watch” meeting

USDA releases reports on preliminary estimates for annual production costs and returns, dairy products and crop progress.

Tuesday, May 3

8:15 a.m. Secretary Vilsack will address the National Association of Farm Broadcasters in the Whitten Building at USDA

10:00 a.m. Committee on Agriculture and Committee on Natural Resources– Joint Public Hearing: At Risk: American Jobs, Agriculture, Health and Species—the Costs of Federal Regulatory Dysfunction, 1324 Longworth House Office Building

10:00 a.m. Senate Committee on Finance hearing:  Is the Distribution of Tax Burdens and Tax Benefits Equitable? 215 Dirksen Senate Office Building

10:00 a.m Food and Ag Policy Conference, National Press Club

2:30 p.m. The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee holds a hearing on America's natural disaster preparedness in Russell 253.

Wednesday, May 4

10:00 a.m.  Committee on Agriculture–Business Meeting
RE: To consider H.R. 1573, to facilitate implementation of title VII of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, promote regulatory coordination, and avoid market disruption, 1300 Longworth House Office Building

10:00 a.m: Senate Finance Committee hearing on Budget Enforcement Mechanisms,
215 Dirksen Senate Office Building

2:00 p.m.  House Agriculture Subcommittee on Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry–Public Hearing: To review the state of the pork industry, 1300 Longworth House Office Building

USDA reports on Broiler Hatchery

Thursday, May 5

7:30 a.m. Deputy Secretary Merrigan will deliver remarks at a breakfast meeting with the Ag in the Classroom Consortium.

9 a.m. 50th  Anniversary of the Economic Research Service

Jefferson Auditorium, US Department of Agriculture

9:00 a.m. The Chicago Council on Global Affairs and its Gates Foundation-sponsored Global Agricultural Development Initiative (GADI) will host a breakfast briefing on America's vital interests in sustaining its commitments to food security featuring Dan Glickman, former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, and Catherine Bertini, former executive director of the U.N. World Food Programme in room B369 Rayburn House Office Building

9:30 a.m. House Agriculture Subcommittee on Conservation, Energy, and Forestry–Public Hearing: To review the U.S. Forest Service’s proposed Forest Planning Rule, 1300 Longworth House Office Building

2:00 p.m. Senate Finance Subcommittee on International Trade, Customs, and Global Competitiveness: Enforcing America’s Trade Laws in the Face of Customs Fraud and Duty Evasion in 215 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Friday, May 6
USDA reports on dairy product and peanut prices

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