President Joe Biden pitches his $2.7 trillion infrastructure package to lawmakers from both parties this week, while Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will testify before House appropriators on the heels of Biden proposing a huge increase in USDA spending.
Biden will meet on Monday with eight members of the House and Senate from both parties to discuss his American Jobs Plan. Republicans will be an especially tough sell, both because of the expanse of the proposal, which ventures far beyond roads, bridges and waterways, and because it would be paid for with corporate tax increases.
The White House on Sunday night announced the list of lawmakers who will be at the meeting: Sens. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash.; Deb Fischer, R-Neb.; Alex Padilla, D-Calif.; and Roger Wicker, R-Miss.; and Reps. Garret Graves, R-La.; Donald Payne, D-N.J.; David Price, D-N.C.; and Don Young, R-Alaska.
Biden “wants to have the discussion about how we can work together to address our nation’s outdated infrastructure and rebuild our workforce for the future,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said. “The president was elected because he was committed to working with both parties to address the crises our nation is facing.”
It’s not yet clear how far he’s willing to go to win GOP support and even whether he will need to win over any Republicans. But he does have to show some centrist Democrats on Congress that he's at least trying.
Democratic leaders may use the budget reconciliation process to pass the legislation, which they can do without GOP support as long as all 50 Democrats for it. The major wild card is Sen. Joe Manchin, the West Virginia Democrat who warned in an op-ed for The Washington Post against overuse of the reconciliation process.
“We should all be alarmed at how the budget reconciliation process is being used by both parties to stifle debate around the major issues facing our country today,” Manchin wrote. “Legislating was never supposed to be easy.”
He also cautioned Republicans, however: “Senate Democrats must avoid the temptation to abandon our Republican colleagues on important national issues. Republicans, however, have a responsibility to stop saying no, and participate in finding real compromise with Democrats.”
In an interview for CBS' Face the Nation on Sunday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. defended the sweeping scope fo the bill, which goes beyond roads, bridges, waterways and other forms of infrastructure that have more bipartisan support. The bill is also "about education, about getting children healthily in school with separation, sanitation, ventilation. It's about investments in housing as well. Overwhelmingly, this bill is about infrastructure in the traditional sense of the word," Pelosi said.
Vilsack, meanwhile, will appear at an online hearing on Wednesday with the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, which is starting work on his department’s fiscal 2022 budget. The hearing follows Friday’s release of a summary of Biden’s FY22 budget request, which calls for a 16% increase, $3.8 billion, in spending for USDA’s discretionary spending programs, those that are subject to the annual appropriations process. Those programs include agricultural research, rural development, food safety and animal and plant health.
The $3.8 billion is heavily targeted toward programs that target climate change, and it also includes an increase of more than $1 billion for the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) nutrition assistance program.
The House appropriators also are likely to question Vilsack about his implementation of coronavirus relief assistance that Congress has provided through a series of bills over the past year, including an omnibus spending bill enacted in December and the $1.9 trillion economic stimulus bill enacted in March.
Climate policy will continue to be a focus on off and on Capitol Hill, where committees on both sides of the Hill will hearings. U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai will keynote a webinar on Thursday sponsored by the left-leaning think tank Center for American Progress and titled “Greening U.S. Trade Policy.”
Also this week, the House Judiciary Committee will vote on a resolution that would establish a commission to recommend possible reparation plans for slavery. The resolution is designated H.R. 40, for the order that General William T. Sherman made to provide freed slaves with 40 acres and a mule. President Andrew Johnson, a former slaveholder, later overturned the order.
“Through this legislation, we will finally be able to confront the stark societal disparities occurring in the African American community today and provide solutions,” said the measure’s chief sponsor, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas.
House Agriculture Committee Chairman David Scott, D-Ga., has separately said he is working on a Black farmers bill that would go beyond the debt relief provided in the economic stimulus bill. That measure authorized payments to minority farmers equal to 120% of the indebtedness on USDA direct and guaranteed loans they hold.
Here is a list of agriculture- or rural-related events scheduled for this week in Washington and elsewhere (all times EDT):
Monday, April 12
4 p.m. — USDA releases weekly Crop Progress report.
Tuesday, April 13
11 a.m. — U.S. Chamber of Commerce webinar, "Common Grounds: Spotlight on Immigration Reform."
Wednesday, April 14
10 a.m. — House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee hearing with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.
Thursday, April 15
8:30 a.m. — USDA releases Weekly Export Sales report.
10 a.m. — House Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations Subcommittee hearing, “Increasing Risks of Climate Change and NOAA's Role in Providing Climate Services.”
11 a.m. — Senate Budget Committee hearing, “The Cost of Inaction on Climate Change,” 216 Hart.
Noon — House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis hearing, “Making the Case for Climate Action: The Growing Risks and Costs of Inaction.”
1 p.m. — Center for American Progress webinar with keynote remarks by U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai, “Greening U.S. Trade Policy.”
2 p.m. — House Interior-Environment Appropriations Subcommittee hearing on the Forest Service.
Friday, April 16
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