The GOP is still in charge of the House until January, when the new Congress convenes, so the question facing farm bill negotiators is whether House Agriculture Chairman Mike Conaway, R-Texas, will cut deals with his Senate counterparts to ensure a new bill gets enacted on his watch.
Conaway and ranking Democrat Collin Peterson of MInnesota, who will take over the House committee in January, plan to meet privately on Monday to discuss progress. A meeting between them and the two lead Senate negotiators, Agriculture Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., and ranking Democrat Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, could take place later in the week.
Conaway said in a statement that he was "100 percent committed to completing the farm bill this year.”
Peterson said in interviews last week that committee aides have drafted legislative options to settle key disagreements between the House and Senate versions, but that the four negotiators need to reach deals. There are disputes to be resolved in several titles, including commodity, conservation and crop insurance.
Still unsettled is the biggest disagreement: tightening work requirements for able-bodied adults participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
Stabenow has refused to go along with the House bill’s provision expanding the existing requirement to people in their 50s and parents of children over the age of 6, so the Trump administration’s focus has turned to making it harder for states to get waivers from the existing requirements, which deny SNAP benefits to able-bodied adults without dependents who are out of work more than three months in every three years.
The administration has prepared a proposal to alter the waiver rules administratively, but a source familiar with the negotiations said the timing of the rule’s release could depend on progress in the farm bill negotiations. The administration would prefer that Congress write the changes into law.
Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue told reporters that he would “much rather” Congress rewrite the section of the 1996 law that authorized the waivers. The Clinton administration developed a detailed set of ways that states could qualify for the waiver. By far the most popular way is to have an average unemployment rate 20 percent above the national average for a 24-month period,
“Our goal at USDA is to carry out the intent of Congress the best that we can. That’s what we try to do with regulations. … I think it’s very important that Congress to the best of their ability be as specific as they can in law,” Perdue said.
Also this week, newly elected lawmakers will arrive in Washington for their orientation amid House battles for leadership in both parties .
Nancy Pelosi will be trying to line up the support from the 218 Democratic colleagues she will need to become speaker in January. On the GOP side, House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy of California is fending off a challenge from Freedom Caucus co-founder Jim Jordan of Ohio.
According to one analysis, at least 21 of the Democrats who were elected on Tuesday have indicated they would oppose making Pelosi speaker. Several races haven’t been decided but Democrats are not expected to have more than 235 seats when the all the races are decided.
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Also this week, the House will consider a bill sponsored by Rep. Sean Duffy, R-Wis., that would remove gray wolves from protection under the Endangered Species Act in Wyoming and the western Great Lakes region. Peterson is co-sponsoring the measure. The bill would reinstate a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decision that was blocked by a federal court.
Here’s a list of agriculture- or rural-related events scheduled for this week in Washington and elsewhere:
Monday, Nov. 12
Federal Veterans Day holiday.
Tuesday, Nov. 13
10 a.m. - Heritage Foundation forum, “Taiwan’s Place in U.S. Trade Policy: Opportunity or Casualty?” 214 Massachusetts Ave NE.
4 p.m. - USDA releases weekly Crop Progress report.
Wednesday, Nov. 14
9 a.m. - Farm Foundation forum, “What the Midterm Elections Mean for Food and Agriculture,” National Press Club. Agri-Pulse Editor Sara Wyant will serve as moderator of the panel of journalists.
10:30 a.m. - Center for American Progress forum, “Proactive and Patient: Managing Demographic Change and Immigration in Rural America,” 1333 H St. NW.
Thursday, Nov. 15
10 a.m. - Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing, “Examining Funding Needs for Wildlife Conservation, Recovery, and Management,” 406 Dirksen.
10 a.m. - House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on misconduct and retaliation at the U.S. Forest Service,
Friday, Nov. 16
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