The House is pressing ahead with a partisan infrastructure bill at the same time there is uncertainty about the future of a freshly minted, $1.2 trillion agreement between President Joe Biden and a bipartisan group of senators.
The House will take up a $547 billion surface transportation bill this week, but much of lawmakers’ attention in coming days will be on the fate of the bipartisan infrastructure deal announced on Thursday.
Biden threw the deal's future in immediate doubt when he said Thursday he wouldn’t sign the resulting legislation unless Congress also sends him another massive reconciliation measure that would address Democratic priorities, including new domestic spending.
It would take at least 10 GOP senators to pass the infrastructure package, and at least one of those, Kansas Republican Jerry Moran, now wants assurances from Democratic swing votes, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, that they won’t support a separate reconciliation bill, a Moran aide told Agri-Pulse.
On Friday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki stopped short of reiterating Biden’s ultimatum to pass both bills. But Biden “plans to stand exactly by the commitment he made” to the GOP senators to support the deal, “and he expects they'll do the same,” Psaki said.
Then over the weekend, Biden issued a statement saying he plans to pursue passage of both bills separately, and the bipartisan agreement "does not preclude Republicans from attempting to defeat" the reconciliation package.
"I gave my word to support the Infrastructure Plan, and that’s what I intend to do," he said. "I intend to pursue the passage of that plan, which Democrats and Republicans agreed to on Thursday, with vigor. It would be good for the economy, good for our country, good for our people. I fully stand behind it without reservation or hesitation."
The House surface transportation bill is likely to get little GOP support. Among the provisions they don’t like is one that would require states to consider lower-carbon alternatives such as public transit to widening highways.
Also this week ahead of the upcoming July 4 break, the House Appropriations Committee will debate amendments to several of its fiscal 2022 spending bills, including the Agriculture and Interior-EPA measures.
The FY22 Agriculture bill, which includes funding for the Agriculture Department, Food and Drug Administration and Commodity Futures Trading Commission, was advanced on Friday by the Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee.
At the brief meeting Friday, Republicans focused their criticism not on the bill’s provisions, which include significant increases for rural broadband and ag research, but on the overall spending level; The bill would provide for an increase of more than 10% to $26.55 billion.
The Senate is out of session for the next two weeks.
Court watch: Prop 12 decision, USDA debt relief
The Supreme Court could announce as soon as Monday whether it will consider a petition from the North American Meat Institute in a lawsuit challenging California’s Proposition 12, which would impose animal confinement standards on farms that sell products into the state.
The court considered the petition in a conference Thursday, which usually means a Monday decision will follow. But the court also could extend the process by seeking the views of the solicitor general, the Justice Department’s lead litigator.
The government backed NAMI in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals but has not weighed in at the Supreme Court.
Twenty states are backing NAMI in the litigation. On the other side are Health Care Without Harm, The National Council for Occupational Safety and Health, The Consumer Federation of America, Food & Water Watch and the Humane Society of the U.S.
Meanwhile, court action continues in a series of cases challenging the Biden administration’s debt forgiveness program for minority farmers.
Judges in two of the seven debt relief cases — Wisconsin and Florida — have issued orders halting payments. Of the other debt relief cases filed against the government alleging unequal treatment under the law, one is scheduled for a preliminary injunction hearing Tuesday. In that case, in the Western District of Tennessee, Union City, Tenn., farmer Robert Holman is the plaintiff.
USDA says it had sent out a handful of payments before the temporary restraining order was issued by U.S. District Judge William Griesbach in Wisconsin. Those payments were “part of a test batch to ensure that USDA processes and systems work — and they do,” a USDA official said.
At USDA: Key reports and UN food initiative
Grain traders believe farmers planted more corn and soybeans than originally expected when USDA issued its plantings forecast March 31. The average trade estimates for the Acreage report are for 93.8 million acres of corn and 89.1 million acres of soybeans versus the March forecast of 91.1 million acres and 87.6 million acres respectively, according to ADM Investor Services.
Also on Wednesday, the Biden administration will host its final U.S. input-gathering meeting in preparation for the United Nations Food System Summit, an initiative to develop global recommendations to meet sustainability development goals, including eliminating hunger and addressing climate change. Farm groups have expressed concern that the European Union will steer the UN initiative toward recommendations that denigrate U.S. farming practices and discourage meat consumption
In conjunction with the summit, USDA has been conducting a “national food system dialogue,” a series of three sessions that launched Jan. 13, continued May 19 and end with Wednesday’s meeting, which USDA says “will focus on pathways forward.” According to USDA, about 100 groups have participated in the dialogues, including farm and food industry groups, research and academic institutions, civil society groups, and state and local government organizations.
"With conflict, the climate crisis, and economic disruptions from COVID-19 exacerbating already worsening trends in food security, the United States is committed to a summit that puts addressing hunger, poverty, and malnutrition — and their causes — at the center of discussion for global action," USDA said in a statement to Agri-Pulse.
"We are aligning our efforts to deliver improved nutrition for the most vulnerable, empower youth and women for greater inclusivity, address the food production and climate change nexus, and step-up investments in agricultural innovation to significantly improve the sustainability and resilience of food systems."
Here is a list of agriculture- or rural-related events scheduled for this week in Washington and elsewhere (all times EDT):
Monday, June 28
4 p.m. — USDA releases weekly Crop Progress report.
5:30 p.m. — House Interior-Environment Appropriations Subcommittee meeting to consider its fiscal 2022 bill, 2118 Rayburn.
7:30 p.m. — House State-Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee meeting to consider its FY22 bill, 2118 Rayburn.
Tuesday, June 29
Wednesday, June 30
10 a.m. — House Agriculture subcommittee hearing, “Supply Chain Recovery and Resiliency: Small Producers and Local Agricultural Markets,” 1300 Longworth.
11 a.m. — Foreign Policy webinar, “ Farmers on the Frontier of Climate Change.”
11:30 a.m. — House Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee meeting to consider its FY22 bill, 2167 Rayburn.
1 p.m. — House Appropriations Committee meeting to consider its FY22 Agriculture spending bill, 1100 Longworth.
3:30 p.m. — UN Food Systems Summit final U.S. national dialogue.
Thursday, July 1
8:30 a.m. — USDA releases Weekly Export Sales report.
9 a.m. — House Appropriations Committee meeting to consider the FY22 State-Foreign Ops and Interior-EPA bills.
Friday, July 2
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