President Joe Biden tries this week to sell congressional Republicans on his massive spending plans and tax proposals, while his nominee for the No. 2 position at the Agriculture Department moves closer to a final Senate vote.
Biden, who has proposed separate spending packages totaling more than $4 trillion, will be meeting with congressional leaders on Wednesday. On Thursday, he will have a separate meeting with Republican committee leaders on infrastructure spending.
“Rebuilding bridges is not a Democratic idea, it’s an American idea,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Friday.
The administration hopes to see a climate and infrastructure package put together by lawmakers this month, but Republicans continue to balk at the scope of spending, his plans to raise tax rates on corporations and wealthy individuals, as well as impose new taxes on inherited assets.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said last week in Kentucky that Republicans are prepared to support a package worth about $600 billion and more narrowly focused on issues for which there is broad support: roads, bridges, waterways, broadband and the like.
But he made clear that Republicans weren’t interested in compromising on Biden’s tax proposals, singling out Biden’s proposal to tax appreciated gains on assets at death. McConnell said that was essentially a second estate tax.
“This is a devastating blow to family farms and small businesses all across America,” McConnell told reporters. “These are not necessarily rich people.”
Last week, 13 rural House Democrats called on their leadership to ensure that there was a full exemption for farms from the tax on inherited assets. Under Biden’s plan, taxes on farm assets would be deferred as the farm stays in operation. According to an analysis by the Tax Foundation, the proposal would raise $212 billion over the next 10 years, with the annual revenue rising to nearly $40 billion in 2031.
Under current law, inherited assets aren't subject to capital gains taxes until the property is sold by the heirs; the heirs benefit from a step-up in basis that means they are only taxed on the increase in value since they acquired the assets.
South Dakota GOP Rep. Dusty Johnson, a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and the centrist Problem Solvers Caucus, said he was disappointed that Biden hadn’t countered a $600 billion proposal offered by a group of Senate Republicans led by Sen. Shelley Moore-Capito, the ranking member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.
“I do think there's room to compromise, but we have got to get back to a point where we are willing to focus on infrastructure. … Anybody in ag country understands the value of ports, understands the value of roads and bridges. This is how we get our products to market. Let's focus on that,” Johnson said in an Agri-Pulse Washington Week in Review interview.
It’s not clear whether there is room for compromise for a package even the size that Republicans want. Biden has ruled out raising user fees or implementing new ones to pay for infrastructure.
Capito will be meeting with Biden on Thursday along with GOP Sens. John Barrasso of Wyoming, Roy Blunt of Missouri, Mike Crapo of Idaho, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and Roger Wicker of Mississippi. In a statement about the meeting, the White House said Biden appreciates the "ongoing dialogue on this high priority, and is looking forward to speaking with the group."
The Senate Agriculture Committee will vote Monday on the nomination of Virginia Ag Commissioner Jewel Bronaugh to be deputy secretary of agriculture. At her confirmation hearing last month, some Republicans pressed Bronaugh about concerns with the Biden administration’s approach to climate policy.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has been forced to run USDA with lower-level appointees and career personnel since he was confirmed by the Senate in February.
Other nominees awaiting Senate confirmation include Vilsack climate adviser Robert Bonnie, Biden’s pick as undersecretary for farm production and conservation programs, Janie Hipp, nominated to be USDA general counsel and Jenny Lester Moffit, the nominee to head up USDA's Marketing and Regulatory Programs mission area.
The House Agriculture Committee holds a hearing this week on the use of farm bill conservation programs to advance “climate-smart” practices that reduce greenhouse gas emissions by storing more carbon in the soil or cutting back on nitrous oxide releases from the use of fertilizer.
The hearing comes as lawmakers, led by Senate Agriculture Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., and including progressives like Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., are trying to get new funding for the conservation programs included in the climate and infrastructure package.
Stabenow argues that the $1 billion in new conservation spending included in Biden’s American Jobs Plan is “woefully inadequate.”
Here is a list of agriculture- or rural-related events scheduled for this week in Washington and elsewhere (all times EDT):
Monday, May 10
9 a.m. — World Resources Institute webinar on nature-based solutions to climate change.
4 p.m. — USDA releases weekly Crop Progress report.
5:30 p.m. — Senate Agriculture Committee meeting to vote on nomination of Jewel Bronaugh to be deputy agriculture secretary, S-216.
Tuesday, May 11
10 a.m. — Global Food Security Symposium 2021, sponsored by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.
Noon — Resources for the Future interview with United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby on the company’s plans for decarbonization and development of sustainable aviation fuels.
Wednesday, May 12
9:30 a.m. — Senate Finance Committee hearing with U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai, 215 Dirksen.
10 a.m. — House Agriculture subcommittee hearing, “Title II Conservation Programs: Exploring Climate Smart Practices,” 1300 Longworth.
10 a.m. — House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee hearing on USDA research programs.
2 p.m. — House Ways and Means subcommittee hearing, “Reforming the tax code’s advantageous treatment of the wealthy.”
2:30 p.m. — Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, "The Essential Role of Immigrant Workers in America,” 226 Dirksen.
Thursday, May 13
8:30 a.m. — USDA releases Weekly Export Sales report.
10 a.m. — House Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee hearing on Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
10 a.m. — House Ways and Means Committee hearing with U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai.
1 p.m. — Center for American Progress forum, “Lessons Learned From California’s Decades of Climate Action.”
2 p.m. — National Press Club Virtual Book Event: Mark Bittman, "Animal, Vegetable, Junk"
Friday, May 14
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