House Democrats kick off their public impeachment hearings this week amid pressure from farm groups to finalize a deal with the White House to act on the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement. 

The House returns from a one-week recess on Tuesday facing the Nov. 21 expiration the continuing resolution that has been funding the government since fiscal 2020 started Oct. 1. The House and Senate have yet to even agree on spending levels for the 12 individual funding bills, let alone the details of the measures. 

Also up in the air as the end of the year looms is a tax extenders package that would revive a series of expired tax incentives, including the $1-a-gallon credit that subsidizes biodiesel. 

House Republicans, led by Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., contend that the impeachment process has sidetracked consideration of USMCA. “It’s been nearly a full year since President Trump signed a new trade deal with the President of Mexico and Prime Minister of Canada,” McCarthy said last week. “What does the Democrat-controlled House have to show for itself during that time?”

But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., continues to insist that the House can handle both, although time is fast running out for USMCA to pass Congress before presidential primary voting starts early next year. Under requirements of the president's trade negotiating authority, the White House must first submit a draft implementing bill, which then triggers further procedures for considering the agreement. 

After a conference call that Pelosi had with the Democratic caucus last week, first-term Rep. Abigail Spanberger, D-Va., said she was optimistic that Democrats could reach agreement with the White House on their concerns with the agreement. 

“I feel like there’s every indication that we will be moving forward, certainly by the end of the year. It’s a priority for many of us,” Spanberger said in an Agri-Pulse Open Mic interview

Meanwhile, lawmakers are expected to take up a new continuing resolution to keep the government in operation into December, but they are still a long way from agreeing on funding levels for FY20, which started Oct. 1.

The spending negotiations are stalled over President Donald Trump’s demand for additional wall funding. “We feel like we’re drifting right now,” Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby, R-Ala., said after a meeting last week with the White House congressional liaison, Eric Ueland, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. 

On Tuesday, Shelby is due to meet with his House counterpart, House Appropriations Chairwoman Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., the top Democrat on Senate Appropriations, Patrick Leahy of Vermont, and the senior Republican on House Appropriations, Kay Granger of Texas. 

Shelby said that the wall funding “is the linchpin” to the spending negotiations. “The president is going to have to be involved, maybe with Pelosi,” Shelby said. 

Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., has shown no sign of budging in blocking action on a package of appropriations bills that include funding for the Defense Department and the departments of Labor and Health and Human Services. “Until Republicans get serious about negotiating a bipartisan way forward, the partisan appropriations bills are all we have and cannot move forward,” Schumer said. 

A tax extenders bill could be tied to the fate of the spending talks. Supporters of the tax incentives hope to attach it to whatever FY20 funding legislation eventually emerges, but the House and Senate have yet to agree on what should be in the tax package, with House Democrats insisting on attaching some priority tax measures. 

Analysts with ClearView Energy Partners said the extenders package already was in trouble because of the impeachment process and that the lack of action on appropriations hasn't helped.

“We think prospects for extenders could deteriorate further, particularly if they continue to rely on FY 2020 appropriations as a vehicle into next year. Political divisions seem unlikely to improve as we approach the 2020 elections,” the analysts wrote. 

But the extenders are a sensitive issue for some House Democrats, 40 of whom wrote a letter to Pelosi and Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal, D-Mass., to tell them of the urgent need to renew the biodiesel tax credit and other biofuel incentives. The letter signers included many members from farm districts, among them Abby Finkenauer and Cindy Axne of Iowa, Angie Craig and House Agriculture Chairman Collin Peterson of Minnesota, Cheri Bustos of Illinois, and TJ Cox of California. 

“While we recognize the financial constraints in addressing the tax incentives, continuing to delay their extension has real consequences for the industries that use the credits and have been unable to plan as a result of the uncertainty,” the letter said. 

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

Monday, Nov. 11

Veterans Day holiday

Agricultural Bankers Conference, through Wednesday, Dallas. 

Western Growers Association annual meeting, through Friday, Wailea, Hawaii.

Tuesday, Nov. 12

4 p.m. — Arizona State University Swette Center for Sustainable Food Systems forum, “A Cooperative Approach to the Future of Foods,” 1800 Eye St. NW. 

Wednesday, Nov. 13

National Association of Farm Broadcasting annual convention, through Friday, Kansas City, Mo.

Thursday, Nov. 14

10 a.m. — House Agriculture Committee hearing on protecting American agriculture from invasive species, 1300 Longworth.

10:30 a.m. — Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing on the nomination of Dan Brouillette to be secretary of energy.

12:30 p.m. — Center for American Progress forum on building a 100% clean future, 1333 H Street NW.

Friday, Nov. 8

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