Congressional Democrats, who are already struggling to agree on their signature Build Back Better spending plan, face the even more immediate task of averting a government shutdown and default.
The House Rules Committee meets Monday to prepare for floor debate a continuing resolution that is needed to keep the government funded after the new fiscal year starts Oct. 1.
Along with the CR, the House will also move a provision to increase the federal debt ceiling, even as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., continues to insist that Senate Republicans won’t support the debt measure.
"Congress, as always, is ironclad in its commitment to never letting the full faith and credit of the United States come under threat. This commitment has long been bipartisan," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said in a "Dear Colleague" letter Sunday evening.
Republicans argue that raising the debt limit would make room for the increased spending that Democrats want. "We're supposed to aid and abet party line spending, which even Democratic economists say will fuel further inflation? No. That's not right.," Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., said on NBC's Meet the Press. Pelosi argues that the debt limit increase is needed to cover already approved spending.
The Senate GOP position raises the threat of a government default unless Republicans relent at some point or Democrats put the debt-ceiling increase in the $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation bill that they want to use to enact the Build Back Better package of green energy tax incentives and domestic spending priorities. The reconciliation bill can pass the Senate with no GOP votes as long as all 50 Democrats vote for it.
Looking ahead, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said in a letter to fellow Democrats that the House will vote as scheduled on Sept. 27 on the Senate-passed bipartisan infrastructure bill. Whether that bill can pass, however, is in doubt, since its fate is likely tied to the Build Back Better bill.
However, House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., said Sunday on CNN's State of the Union that the infrastructure vote could get delayed. "But the question is, are we going to work to get to our goal for September 27? Yes. We are going to work hard to reach that goal. And, sometimes, you have to kind of stop the clock to get to the goal. We'll do what's necessary to get there," he said.
Another option is to hold the vote on Sept. 27 but delay sending the bill to President Joe Biden for his signature, House Budget Committee Chairman John Yarmuth, D-Ky., said on Fox News Sunday.
Progressives have threatened to oppose the infrastructure bill — which would provide $550 billion in new spending for roads, bridges, waterways, broadband and other needs — unless they’re satisfied with action on the reconciliation measure, which faces obstacles on both the right and left.
Rep. Pramila Jayapal, a Washington Democrat who chairs the Congressional Progressive Caucus, told Bloomberg Friday that progressives would block the infrastructure bill until both the House and Senate have passed the reconciliation measure.
Meanwhile, some moderate House Democrats, including Jim Costa, D-Calif., have indicated they won’t vote for the reconciliation bill unless it’s cut to a size that can pass the Senate, where Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., has indicated he may not support a bill that costs more than $1.5 trillion.
Yarmuth played down the intra-party division over bill's cost. "We're not really focused on the top line of spending. I know a lot of people are. Because what we ought to be focused on is what the net investment ... in the people of the United States will be," he said.
He noted that the House Ways and Means Committee last week approved $2 trillion in tax increases to help pay for the package.
And there are still more challenges for Democratic leaders: Last week, defections among House moderates prevented the House Energy and Commerce from approving a key portion of the Build Back Better measure that is designed to force reductions in prices for prescription drugs.
In addition, an aide to a senior Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee, Rep. Alma Adams of North Carolina, confirmed to Agri-Pulse that she has threatened to oppose the reconciliation bill if more money isn’t added for historically Black colleges and universities.
The Senate parliamentarian, meanwhile, on Sunday dealt a blow to Democrats' hopes to use the reconciliation bill to provide a legal status for many undocumented immigrants, ruling that the provision couldn't be included in the legislation.
“We are deeply disappointed in this decision but the fight to provide lawful status for immigrants in budget reconciliation continues," Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said Sunday night. "Senate Democrats have prepared alternate proposals and will be holding additional meetings with the Senate parliamentarian in the coming days."
Also this week, the House will take up the fiscal 2022 defense authorization bill, which includes a provision that would bar renewable jet fuel made from ag commodities to be used in a pilot program for military aircraft. A bipartisan group of Midwest lawmakers is trying to get a vote on an amendment to remove that restriction. The Rules Committee will decide Monday whether the amendment gets considered on the House floor.
This week is also is a milestone in the road to the international climate conference in Glasgow in November: The United Nations Food Systems Summit, a process designed to elicit national commitments to meet global sustainable development goals, takes place in New York and online on Thursday.
Martin Frick, deputy to the special envoy for the summit, said there will be a "whole set of commitments coming from international organizations, civil society organizations, new coalitions emerging, all sorts of action” to address hunger while also protecting the environment and grappling with the effects of climate change.
In response to criticism from both Indigenous groups and ag industry leaders who are afraid their views are not being well represented, Frick said a lot of effort has been made to gather those views, but added, “As a diplomat, if you do any sort of international process, and you make opposite parties equally unhappy, you've been doing a decent job.” Frick was speaking on a webinar hosted by the Society of Environmental Journalists.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced last week that the Biden administration is forming a "coalition for productivity growth." It's part of an effort to counter the European Union’s Farm-to-Fork strategy that seeks steep cuts in the use of pesticides and fertilizers.
Also this week, the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture will hold its annual meeting online and in Louisville, Kentucky. The speakers will include Vilsack as well as EPA Administrator Michael Regan and U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai.
On Monday, Vilsack also will headline an annual agricultural outlook conference in Kansas City sponsored by Agri-Pulse and the Agricultural Business Council of Kansas City. Other speakers will include USDA Chief Economist Seth Meyer and Jackson Takach, chief economist for Farmer Mac, and officials from leading agribusiness firms.
Back in Washington, Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., will address the United Fresh Produce Association's annual Washington conference on Wednesday.
Here is a list of agriculture- or rural-related events scheduled for this week in Washington and elsewhere (all times EDT):
Monday, Sept. 20
Annual Ag Outlook Forum sponsored by Agri-Pulse and the Agricultural Business Council of Kansas City.
National Association of State Departments of Agriculture annual meeting, through Wednesday, Louisville, Kentucky.
United Fresh Produce Association annual Washington conference, through Wednesday, Grand Hyatt Washington.
11 a.m. — EPA Administrator Michael Regan addresses NASDA meeting.
Noon — House Rules Committee meeting to consider rule for a fiscal 2022 continuing resolution, Capitol H-313.
1 p.m. — The Council on Food, Agricultural and Resources webinar on emerging issues in child nutrition reauthorization.
4 p.m. — USDA releases weekly Crop Progress report.
Tuesday, Sept. 21
8 a.m. - Jenny Lester Moffitt, USDA's undersecretary for marketing and regulatory programs, speaks to the United Fresh conference.
10 a.m. — Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing on the nominations of Laura Daniel-Davis to be an assistant secretary of the Interior Department for lands and minerals management and Camille C. Touton to be commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation.
10 a.m. — U.S. Trade Representative Katharine Tai addresses NASDA meeting.
Wednesday, Sept. 22
Tai meets privately with World Trade Organization Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.
8 a.m. - Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., addresses the United Fresh conference.
10 a.m. — Vilsack addresses NASDA meeting.
Thursday, Sept. 23
UN Food Systems Summit, New York
8:30 a.m. — USDA releases Weekly Export Sales report.
10 a.m. — House Agriculture Committee hearing on carbon markets.
Friday, Sept. 24
9 a.m. — USDA releases monthly Food Price Outlook.
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