Lawmakers return to work with Senate Democratic leaders determined to move both a bipartisan infrastructure package as well as an even bigger, partisan reconciliation bill ahead of the long August recess.
The $1.2 trillion infrastructure deal reached in June has the backing of major business groups, although it’s not clear whether it will have sufficient GOP support to pass the Senate if it looks like Democrats will also pass a multi-trillion-dollar reconciliation bill with the climate provisions and domestic spending they want.
On Wednesday, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will consider what could be a major piece of the infrastructure bill when it debates an energy measure that includes a package of key Western water provisions sought by ag groups.
Ahead of the July 4 recess, the committee’s chairman, Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., told E&E News he wanted to add the energy legislation to the larger infrastructure package. Committee aides have not responded to questions about his intent.
The latest version of the committee's bill includes $3.2 billion for the Bureau of Reclamation’s aging infrastructure account, which was created to modernize agency-managed water supply systems; $1.15 billion for water storage, groundwater storage, and conveyance projects; and $1 billion for rural water projects.
There is another $500 million designated for dam safety and $400 million for WaterSMART grants, which are distributed to states, tribes and local governments for infrastructure needs.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., is warning that the Senate could stay in session into August to make sure that the broader infrastructure bill and reconciliation measure are both addressed.
“My intention for this work period is for the Senate to consider both the bipartisan infrastructure legislation and a budget resolution with reconciliation instructions, which is the first step for passing legislation through the reconciliation process,” Schumer said in a message to colleagues.
“Please be advised that time is of the essence and we have a lot of work to do. Senators should be prepared for the possibility of working long nights, weekends, and remaining in Washington into the previously-scheduled August state work period.”
Also this week, the slow pace of processing President Joe Biden’s Agriculture Department nominees continues with a Senate Agriculture Committee hearing for Jenny Lester Moffitt, a California ag official and organic walnut farmer picked to be USDA’s undersecretary for marketing and regulatory programs.
Moffitt, whose selection was announced in April, is the first undersecretary nominee to be considered by the committee. Robert Bonnie, Biden’s pick as undersecretary for farm production and conservation programs, has been waiting even longer. The nominations of Homer Wilkes and Xochitl Torres-Small are also awaiting committee action.
Also this week, Agri-Pulse’s Food and Ag Policy Summit West, held in Sacramento, Calif., Monday and online, will feature leading ag experts and industry officials debating the labor, regulatory and market challenges that face California producers.
California Food and Ag Secretary Karen Ross will deliver the summit’s opening keynote.
Despite the Republican involvement in writing the bipartisan infrastructure package, some leading conservative groups are calling on GOP senators to reject it.
“As conservative leaders, we are troubled that Republicans fell into the Democratic trap on an infrastructure spending bill. The $1.2 trillion “bipartisan” package that was announced last week was a betrayal of basic conservative values of fiscal responsibility,” according to the statement signed by Stephen Moore of the Committee to Unleash Prosperity and Grover Norquist of the Americans for Tax Reform, among others.
“The bill mostly funds the Green New Deal and expensive and underused mass transit systems, not roads, bridges, and airports.”
But the infrastructure package is backed by more than 20 leading business and labor groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Business Roundtable, the National Association of Manufacturers, AFL-CIO and North America’s Building Trades Unions.
In a Business Roundtable tweet, Land O’Lakes Inc. President and CEO Beth Ford suggested infrastructure is vital because it provides the “ability to move goods, the ability to get a truck on the farm, the ability to move grain off of a farm or dairy off of a farm, the ability to export.”
Also on Capitol Hill, the House Appropriations Committee will continue its work on the 12 spending bills needed to fund the government for the 2022 fiscal year that begins Oct. 1. The committee will debate four of the bills this week, including measures funding the Commerce, Energy, Justice, Labor and Transportation departments as well as the Army Corps of Engineers.
Here is a list of agriculture- or rural-related events scheduled for this week in Washington and elsewhere (all times EDT):
Monday, July 12
Agri-Pulse Food and Ag Policy Summit West, Sacramento, Calif.
11 a.m. - House Labor-HHS Appropriations Subcommittee meeting to consider its FY22 funding bill, 2118 Rayburn.
Noon - The Council on Food, Agricultural and Resources Economics webinar, “Rural Communities One Year Post COVID-19.”
Noon - House Agriculture subcommittee hearing, “Examining the SNAP Benefit Cliff.”
1 p.m. - House Energy-Water Appropriations Subcommittee meeting to consider its FY22 funding bill, 2118 Rayburn.
3 p.m. - House Commerce-Justice-Science Appropriations Subcommittee meeting to consider its FY22 spending bill, 2118 Rayburn.
4 p.m. - USDA releases weekly Crop Progress report.
5 p.m. - House Transportation-HUD Appropriations Subcommittee meeting to consider its FY22 bill, 2118 Rayburn.
Tuesday, July 13
1 p.m. - House Small Business subcommittee hearing, “Rural American Recovery: The Role of Small Businesses and Entrepreneurship.”
Wednesday, July 14
9:45 a.m. - Senate Environment and Public Works Committee meeting to consider several nominations, including that of Jeffrey Nieto to be general counsel of the Environmental Protection Agency, followed by a hearing on the nomination of Michael Connor to be the assistant secretary of the Army for civil works, 406 Dirksen.
10 a.m. - Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee meeting to consider energy and Western water infrastructure bill, 366 Dirksen.
10 a.m. - Senate Labor-HHS Appropriations Subcommittee hearing with Labor Secretary Martin Walsh, 138 Dirksen.
10:30 a.m. - Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing with USAID Administrator Samantha Power, 216 Hart.
Thursday, July 15
8:30 a.m. - USDA releases Weekly Export Sales report.
9:30 a.m. - Senate Agriculture Committee hearing on the nomination of Jenny Lester Moffitt to be USDA’s undersecretary for marketing and regulatory programs, 301 Russell.
Noon - AGree webinar, “The Future of Farming: Producer Perspectives on Agriculture Data Innovation.”
2:30 p.m. - House Committee on the Climate Crisis hearing, “Advancing Environmental Justice Through Climate Action.”
TBD - House Appropriations Committee meeting to consider the FY22 Labor-HHS and Commerce-Justice-Science bills, 1100 Longworth
Friday, July 16
9 a.m. - House Appropriations Committee meeting to consider the FY22 Energy-Water and Transportation-HUD bills, 1100 Longworth.
Annie Deckey contributed to this report.
For more news, go to: www.Agri-Pulse.com