President Donald Trump makes his case to the nation this week for his trade and immigration policies, while Senate Republicans look to advance Anthony Wheeler’s nomination to be administrator of the EPA.
Also this week, House Democrats will launch a series of hearings intended to focus on their policy priorities, including addressing climate change.
Trump’s state of the union message is scheduled for Tuesday night after being delayed by one week because of the government shutdown and his border funding dispute with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Another government shutdown is looming Feb. 15, if congressional negotiators can’t reach agreement with the president on his demands for funding a border wall. On Tuesday, Trump will be appealing to lawmakers for bipartisanship. He told reporters last week that the speech will cover “a lot of territory” and that “unity will be part of it.”
The White House also indicated that immigration, trade and infrastructure will be among the policy priorities that Trump addresses in the speech.
In an interview with CBS' Face the Nation that aired Sunday, Trump insisted that he is making progress in negotiations with China. "It looks like we're doing very well with making a deal with China. I can tell you this, no two leaders of this country and China have ever been closer than I am with President Xi. We have a good chance to make a deal," Trump said.
Also on Tuesday, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee is expected to vote on the Wheeler nomination despite continuing criticism from Democrats. Wheeler has been serving as acting administrator of EPA since the resignation of Scott Pruitt last year.
Republicans control the committee and have the votes to send Wheeler’s nomination to the floor. The question is how hard and long Democrats will try to delay a floor vote. From the GOP perspective, Wheeler has been more accessible than Pruitt and more effective in implementing the president’s regulatory rollback.
At Wheeler’s Jan. 16 confirmation hearing, the committee Democrats and Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., challenged him on climate change, mercury emissions and fuel economy standards. Wheeler said climate change was a “huge issue” but not the “greatest crisis.”
The committee’s top Democrat, Tom Carper of Delaware, said there were no plans to boycott the committee vote. But he said that Wheeler’s nomination will be “a lot smoother” depending on how he addresses a series of pending issues, including regulation of mercury emissions and hydroflourocarbons, and California’s effort to have higher fuel emission standards.
In the House, the Natural Resources and Energy and Commerce committees will launch a series of hearings on climate change, starting next week, a key part of the effort by House Democrats to tee up the issue for the 2020 election.
Natural Resources Chairman Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., told Agri-Pulse the upcoming hearings are intended to “set a tone … and start talking about science again.”
The House Agriculture Committee has no plans to follow suit, at least for now. “Why would we have a hearing? What would the reason be for it? Nobody has given me a reason to do one,” said Chairman Collin Peterson, D-Minn.
Also on Tuesday, the comment period is scheduled to end on USDA’s proposed revisions to wetland determination rules.
Environmental groups are concerned that the Natural Resources Conservation Service is trying to weaken its wetlands protections by allowing what the groups consider faulty maps to be used to determine whether wetlands exist on the landscape.
Farmers are prohibited from receiving commodity, conservation or crop insurance benefits if they break up wetlands.
The American Farm Bureau Federation is concerned that NRCS is giving itself too much leeway to determine when wetlands exist.
Here is a list of agriculture- or rural-related events scheduled for this week in Washington and elsewhere:
Monday, Feb. 4
Noon - Heritage Foundation forum, “The Legality of Nationwide Injunctions,” 214 Massachusetts Ave NE.
Tuesday, Feb. 5
Comment period ends on proposed USDA revisions to wetland determination rules.
8 a.m. - U.S. Chamber of Commerce annual infrastructure summit, 1615 H St. NW.
9 a.m. - Farm Foundation forum, “The Realities of Implementing the 2018 Farm Bill,” National Press Club.
10 a.m. - Senate Energy and Natural Resources hearing, “Outlook for Energy and Minerals Markets in the 116th Congress,” 366 Dirksen.
1 p.m. - Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research forum, “Foster Our Future,” Ronald Reagan Building.
9 p.m. - President Donald Trump gives his state of the union message.
Wednesday, Feb. 6
10 a.m. - House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing, “Time for Action: Addressing the Environmental and Economic Effects of Climate Change,” 2123 Rayburn.
10 a.m. - House Natural Resources Committee hearing, "Climate Change: The Impacts and the Need to Act,” 1324 Longworth.
10 a.m. - Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation hearing, “Winning the Race to 5G and the Next Era of Technology Innovation in the United States,”
10 a.m. - Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee meeting to consider Labor Department nominees, 430 Dirksen.
11 a.m. - USDA releases Highlights From the February 2018 Farm Income Forecast.
Thursday, Feb. 7
8:30 a.m. - USDA releases Weekly Export Sales report.
10 a.m. - Senate Judiciary Committee meeting to consider the nomination of William Barr to be attorney general, 216 Hart.
Friday, Feb. 8
National Cotton Council annual meeting, through Sunday, San Antonio, Texas.
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