The Trump administration’s trade negotiations with China return to Washington, while lawmakers look to close a long-sought, bipartisan deal on disaster aid. 

President Donald Trump said Friday he’s expecting an “historic” agreement with China to be reached in the near future. Vice Premier Liu He is leading the Chinese delegation this week. On Sunday, he raised the stakes for the negotiations by announcing that he would raise tariffs on Chinese goods from 10 percent to 25 percent this Friday. "The Tariffs paid to the USA have had little impact on product cost, mostly borne by China," he wrote. 

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin were in China last week for the talks, which Mnuchin called “productive.”

Trump, speaking to reporters on Friday, said “the deal itself is going along pretty well. I would even say very well. We'll see what happens over the next couple of weeks, but we're getting close to a very historic, monumental deal.”

But Trump, as he has done before, warned that he would be willing to walk away from the negotiations without a deal. “And if it doesn't happen, we'll be fine too,” Trump said. “Maybe even better.”

On Capitol Hill, leaders of the Senate Appropriations Committee reported progress last week on a disaster aid deal they hoped would garner Trump’s support. The Senate has been unable to pass a package of assistance for victims of last year’s hurricanes and wildfires and this year’s flooding and tornadoes because of the dispute between the White House and congressional Democrats over aid to Puerto Rico. 

The top Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee, Pat Leahy, D-Vt., said last week negotiators were “getting closer” to a deal with the White House. 

House Democrats, meanwhile, will seek this week to keep the heat on the White House to reach a deal by debating a new version of a disaster aid package the House passed in January. The latest version includes a provision that would make stored crops damaged by flooding eligible for payments from the Agriculture Department. 

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said the bill also includes an extra $3 billion in overall assistance “to address flooding in the Midwest and tornadoes in the South that occurred since we passed the first disaster bill … which has unfortunately languished in the Senate."

The House Rules Committee will meet Tuesday to decide what amendments to the package will be considered on the floor. 

Several amendments were proposed that have both Republican and Democratic co-sponsors. One filed by Florida House members would make blueberry and milk productivity losses back in 2017 eligible for aid under the bill. Another bipartisan amendment, filed by Florida and Georgia lawmakers, would expand the eligible commodities for disaster assistance to include aquaculture, plants and animals. 

A bipartisan amendment co-sponsored by Missouri lawmakers would allow their region to be eligible for Army Corps of Engineers studies to reduce risk from future floods. The assistance is limited in the bill to areas affected specific storms, including hurricanes Florence and Michael.

Amendments by Rep. Cindy Axne, D-Iowa, would make expenses related to crop losses due to the Missouri River flooding eligible for assistance under a 2018 program and also require the Army Corps of Engineers to report to Congress on steps it took before and after the flooding. 

Here is a list of agriculture- or rural-related events scheduled for this week in Washington and elsewhere:

Monday, May 6

4 p.m. — USDA releases weekly Crop Progress report. 

Tuesday, May 7

2:30 p.m. — Senate Finance Services Appropriations Subcommittee hearing on the Federal Communications Commission and Federal Trade Commission, 138 Dirksen

3 p.m. — House Interior-Environment Appropriations Subcommittee hearing on the Interior Department, 2362-A Rayburn.

5 p.m. — House Rules Committee meeting to consider debate rule for the disaster aid bill, Capitol H-313.

Wednesday, May 8

10 a.m. — Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing on the Army Corps of Engineers’ Civil Works program, 406 Dirksen

10 a.m. — House Agriculture subcommittee hearing on the farm economy, 1300 Longworth

10 a.m. — Senate Finance Services Appropriations hearing on the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, 124 Dirksen

10 a.m. — House Small Business Committee hearing “Honoring the Nation’s Small Business Heroes,” 2360 Rayburn

10:30 a.m. — House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing on the Federal Trade Commission, 2123 Rayburn.

Thursday, May 9

8:30 a.m. — USDA releases Weekly Export Sales report.

10:15 a.m. — House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing on the Department of Energy, 2123 Rayburn

Friday, May 10

8:45 a.m. — National Press Foundation forum on dietary guidelines and menu labeling, Ronald Reagan Building, 1300 Pennsylvania Ave. NW.

12:30 p.m. — Former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb speaks at the National Press Club. 

Noon — USDA releases the monthly World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates and the monthly Crop Production report

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