President Donald Trump says he’ll announce his nominee Monday to fill the pivotal Supreme Court vacancy created by the retirement of Anthony Kennedy, and farm groups are eager this week for House and Senate negotiations to begin on a new farm bill.
Whomever Trump picks for the court is expected to push the court to the right on regulatory issues important to agriculture. Trump’s short list, according to reports, includes Brett Kavanaugh, a judge on the D.C. Court of Appeals; Amy Coney Barrett of the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, Raymond Kethledge of the U.S. 6th Circuit, and Thomas Hardiman, of the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in an interview last week that he has had multiple conversations with Trump about the issue and that the Senate would act quickly on the nomination.
“We’ll be able to have a new justice by the beginning of October, which is when the Supreme Court’s fall term begins,” McConnell said.
Any of Trump’s picks is expected to read the Constitution and laws more narrowly than Kennedy sometimes did. Kavanaugh has by far the longest history of those believed to be on Trump’s short list when it comes to regulatory issues, since the D.C. Circuit has jurisdiction over federal environmental and labor regulations and consumer protection rules, among other issues.
Kavanaugh wrote an opinion last year favorable to the ethanol industry that said EPA was wrong to consider demand-side constraints in setting biofuel usage quotas under the Renewable Fuel Standard. However, in an earlier case he dissented in a ruling that backed EPA’s approval of E15.
As for the farm bill, formal negotiations can’t start until the House rejects the Senate-passed version and votes to go to conference with the Senate. That step will clear the way for conferees to be appointed by each chamber.
It’s not clear when that will happen. The Senate formally notified the House June 29 that it had approved its version of the bill, but the House GOP leadership has not yet scheduled consideration of the Senate measure.
The Senate passed the bill by an historically large margin, 86-11, on June 28, one week after House GOP leaders finally won passage of the House version, 213-211. House Democrats united in opposition to the bill because of its expanded work requirements for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
The House work rules won’t make it into the final bill, because McConnell said the legislation's nutrition provisions will have to be acceptable to Democrats.
“The House version of the farm bill had no Democratic support and you can’t pass a farm bill through the Senate with no Democratic support, so we’ll have to resolve the work issue in a way that is satisfactory to Democrats in order to pass a farm bill out of the Congress and get it to the president for his signature,” McConnell said.
Also this week, the FDA will hold a public meeting Thursday on regulation of cell-cultured meat products.
Agency officials signaled last month that they had the statutory authority to regulate the new products, but Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue has indicated that USDA should have jurisdiction over the products, and the beef industry has taken the same stance.
Here’s a list of agriculture- or rural-related events scheduled for this week in Washington and elsewhere:
Monday, July 9
4 p.m. - USDA releases weekly Crop Progress report.
Tuesday, July 10
Wednesday, July 11
10 a.m. - Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing, “The Long-term Value to U.S. Taxpayers of Low-cost Federal Infrastructure Loans,”
Thursday, July 12
All day - FDA holds public meeting on cell-cultured meat, Wiley Auditorium, College Park, Md.
10 a.m. - House Natural Resources subcommittee hearing, "The Essential Role of Livestock Grazing on Federal Lands and Its Importance to Rural America," 1324 Longworth.
1 p.m. - Lance Fritz, the chairman, president and CEO of Union Pacific speaks about trade, technology and the economy at the National Press Club.
Friday, July 13
Jeff Nalley contributed to this report.
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