Democrats on the Senate Agriculture Committee have started meeting privately to start dividing up $135 billion in new spending that would be authorized by the partisan, fiscal 2022 budget resolution the Senate is considering.
Republicans will have no input in how the funding is allocated, since they will not support the $3.5 trillion spending and tax plan Democrats are seeking to enact, Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich. told reporters Tuesday.
“We know that there will not be Republican votes, so we'll step up and write this as Democrats,” she said.
A source familiar with Democrats' plans said the Senate committee members would be coordinating with their Democratic counterparts in the House in writing the legislation.
The allocations that the Democrats decide on will be written into a reconciliation measure that the Democrats plan to move through Congress later.
Democrats on the Senate Finance Committee, of which Stabenow also is a member, plan to meet next week to discuss the tax increases and other revenue proposals that would be included in the reconciliation bill. The tax measures are expected to include new taxes on capital gains as well as a tariff on imported goods based on their carbon footprint.
The budget resolution, which calls for $3.5 trillion in new spending on measures to address climate change and domestic priorities, provides only basic allocations to committees, leaving it to them to write their portions of the reconciliation measure.
Stabenow declined to discuss her plans for the $135 billion. She said it would allow for a “substantial investment” in conservation, although she wouldn’t say whether it would provide the full $50 billion in conservation program funding that she had said she was seeking.
According to a a memorandum on the resolution for Democratic senators, the $135 billion would be used for "conservation programs, drought and forestry programs to help reduce carbon emissions and prevent wildfires;" "rural development and rural co-op clean energy investments;" agricultural research; the Civilian Climate Corps; child nutrition; and “debt relief.”
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The committee’s top Republican, John Boozman of Arkansas, opposes the reconciliation process even though it would provide significant new funding for the next farm bill, due in 2023. He said the reconciliation measure could tie the hands of the committee that writes the farm bill.
“You’re talking about spending a massive amount of money (with) no input from Republicans, no input from the Senate Ag Committee, no hearings,” he said.
The committee leaders made their comments after a brief committee meeting where the panel approved two nominees for top positions at the Agriculture Department: Robert Bonnie as undersecretary for farm production and conservation, and former Rep. Xochitl Torres Small, D-N.M., to be undersecretary for rural development.
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