The House will vote on a $1.5 trillion infrastructure bill that likely has no future in the GOP-controlled Senate but does provide a blueprint for what Democrats may try to do if they win control of the Senate in November.
The Moving Forward Act includes authorization for $100 billion in spending for broadband expansion as well as $300 billion for roads and bridges, $100 billion for public transportation, and new spending on schools, housing and hospitals.
Clean energy also is a significant part of the bill, which provides $70 billion for improvements to the electrical grid to accommodate more renewable energy and to facilitate a ramp-up in electric vehicle usage.
After the July 4 holiday, the House will pivot to moving the 12 appropriation bills for fiscal 2021, which begins Oct. 1. The Agriculture bill, which funds USDA, FDA and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, is scheduled for subcommittee action in the House Appropriations Committee on July 6. The full committee will take up the bill on July 9.
The Interior-Environment bill, which funds the Interior Department, EPA and the Forest Service, and the Energy-Water bill, which funds the Army Corps of Engineers, are scheduled for subcommittee action on July 7, with full committee action on July 10.
Also this week, USDA on Tuesday will release its widely anticipated annual Acreage report, which estimates how many acres of each major commodity that farmers planted in the spring. The report is based on an extensive survey of producers.
Also Tuesday, the House Financial Services Committee will bring in Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell to answer questions about the Trump administration’s response to the COVID-19 crisis.
The hearing is likely to include discussion around the implementation of the Paycheck Protection Program and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program, both of which have been utilized by farmers and other agricultural businesses.
The House Small Business Committee will have a hearing Wednesday focused exclusively on EIDL, which provides grants of up to $10,000 to businesses as well as low-interest loans.
As for the infrastructure bill, Majority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md. said the legislation would “restore the economy which has been very badly damaged by COVID-19. I expect the bill to pass and I hope the Senate responds.”
Democrats are not proposing any tax increases or spending cuts to offset the costs of the bill.
“The president of the United States campaigned on the basis of putting a trillion-dollar investment into infrastructure,” Hoyer said. “He has proposed no bill which does that and has not paid for any bill that does that.”
A leading proponent of broadband expansion, Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., said he hoped the Republican-controlled Senate would consider including the broadband funding in the coronavirus relief bill it is expected to consider in July. "We may not be able to get into that package, in which case it won’t happen until after the election year," he said.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell indicated to Agri-Pulse in late May that broadband and other infrastructure funding was unlikely to be included in the next coronavirus relief bill. “My view is if there is another bill it needs to be narrowly crafted to deal with the crisis,” he said.
The Moving Forward Act includes an $80 billion fund to enable competitive bidding for broadband. Seventy five percent of the funding would be allocated through a nationwide bidding process, while the remaining $20 billion would be routed through state-run bidding programs.
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Among other things, additional funding in the bill would pay for Wi-Fi hot spots and broadband connections through schools, school buses and libraries. Also included in the bill is $24 million for the Federal Communications Commission’s effort to update its broadband availability maps.
Here is a list of agriculture- or rural-related events scheduled for this week in Washington and elsewhere:
Monday, June 29
1 p.m. - House Rules Committee virtual meeting to consider rule for the Moving Forward Act.
4 p.m. - USDA releases weekly Crop Progress report.
Tuesday, June 30
Noon - USDA releases annual Acreage report.
12:30 p.m. - House Financial Services Committee hearing with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, CVC-200.
Wednesday, July 1
10 a.m. - House Small Business Committee hearing on the Small Business Administration’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program, 2118 Rayburn.
Thursday, July 2
8:30 a.m. - USDA releases the Weekly Export Sales report.
Friday, July 3
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