The Senate faces a Wednesday deadline to vote on a bipartisan infrastructure package even as Democrats try to finalize a bigger $3.5 trillion package of climate provisions and domestic spending initiatives.
The infrastructure bill, which would include $579 billion in new spending, will need the support of at least 10 GOP senators to pass, and critical details still had not been worked out heading into the weekend.
Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said he would force an initial vote on the infrastructure measure on Wednesday.
The 22 Democrats and Republicans who have been negotiating the final details were continuing their talks on Sunday, a member of the group, Ohio Republican Rob Portman, told CNN. "This is a complex bill. It involves several committees. It involves a lot of very tough issues, because we have got to resolve them between us first," Portman said.
Another member of the negotiating group, Louisiana Republican Bill Cassidy, said the bill text could be ready by the middle of the week but he accused the White House of objecting to some potential revenue sources because Biden wants to save them to use in the $3.5 trillion measure. "We can get it (the infrastructure bill) done, but if they refuse to cooperate on the pay-fors, it’s not going to pass," Cassidy told Fox News.
The senators reached agreement in late June with the White House on the broad parameters of the deal, including $109 billion designated for roads and bridges, $66 billion for railroads, $65 billion for broadband, $16 billion for ports and waterways and $5 billion for the Western water needs.
Portman said the group had dropped the idea of using bolstered tax enforcement to raise revenue for the package.
Ahead of the weekend, some Republicans warned it could be a mistake to pressure them to vote for the bill before they’re satisfied with the details.
“There are members who want to vote for a bill, and I know that they're proceeding in good faith on the negotiations, but I think setting artificial deadlines is going to make it harder, not easier,” Senate GOP Whip John Thune, R-S.D., told reporters after Schumer set the deadline.
The White House was publicly deferring to Schumer on determining the schedule. "I will note that the president is quite familiar with the roller coaster and ups and downs of legislating, having spent 36 years there and even having had some successes over the last few months in working with legislators," said White House press secretary Jen Psaki.
On Wednesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing intended to highlight the importance of immigrant farmworkers to food production. The witness list has not been released but the hearing is expected to include at least two farmers.
The Farm Workforce Modernization Act, a House-passed bill that would expand the H-2A visa program and provide a path to legal status for farmworkers who are in the country illegally, remains stalled in the Senate.
Democrats may try to include farmworker provisions in the $3.5 trillion tax and spending package that are crafting, but critics express doubt that the Senate parliamentarian would allow immigration provisions to be included in a budget reconciliation measure. Democrats will have to use the reconciliation process to move the bill since no Republicans are expected to support the bill.
Meanwhile this week, the House will consider a landmark, bipartisan measure to clean up contamination from “forever chemicals” known as PFAS, for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances. The chemicals, often found around military bases, have sometimes contaminated water supplies used by dairy farms.
The PFAS Action Act includes provisions requiring EPA to set a national drinking water standard for select PFAS chemicals and designate them as hazardous substances. The bill also would provide $200 million annually to assist water utilities and wastewater treatment.
A similar version passed the House in 2020 but never got consideration in the Senate, which was then controlled by Republicans.
Here is a list of agriculture- or rural-related events scheduled for this week in Washington and elsewhere (all times EDT):
Monday, July 19
4 p.m. — USDA releases weekly Crop Progress report.
Tuesday, July 20
Wednesday, July 21
10 a.m. — House Agriculture subcommittee hearing, “The U.S. Wood Products Industry: Facilitating the Post COVID-19 Recovery.”
10 a.m. — House Science, Space and Technology subcommittee hearing, “Silent Killer: The Rising Problem of Extreme Heat in the U.S.,” 2318 Rayburn.
10 a.m. — House Ways and Means subcommittee hearing on the problem of forced labor in supply chains.
10 a.m. — Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, “Immigrant Farmworkers are Essential to Feeding America,” 226 Dirksen
Thursday, July 22
8:30 a.m. — USDA releases Weekly Export Sales report.
10 a.m. — Senate Environment and Public Works subcommittee hearing on issues affecting “environmental justice populations,” 406 Dirksen.
Friday, July 23
9 a.m. — USDA releases monthly Food Price Outlook.
For more news, go to: www.Agri-Pulse.com