President Joe Biden and congressional Democrats have two weeks before their next self-imposed deadline to reach an agreement on his Build Back Better plan to expand social programs and attack climate change.
With lawmakers back in town this week, Biden and high-level White House officials will continue their outreach in search of a deal on the size and scope of the legislation.
The most recent deadline for action on the bill is Oct. 31, the day a temporary extension of federal highway funding runs out and the international COP26 climate conference begins in Glasgow, Scotland.
A bipartisan infrastructure bill, which House progressives are blocking until the Build Back Better Act passes, includes a long-term extension of highway spending.
The beginning of the Glasgow conference is critical to Biden, because he needs action on the climate measure to back up his commitment to cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030.
Democratic leaders continue to press for a deal by the end of the month, although there has been no announcement of agreement on the top-line numbers.
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., posted a statement on his Twitter feed Friday evening, pushing back on pressure he’s getting from Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. to cut a deal that progressives can support. Manchin said that “52 senators” — referring to himself, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., and the 50 Republican senators — remain concerned about throwing “more money on an already overheated economy.”
Manchin's statement went on, “To be clear, again, Congress should proceed with caution on any additional spending and I will not vote for a reckless expansion of government programs.”
Meanwhile, House progressives are pressuring their Democratic leadership to ensure that a range of their domestic priorities are funded in the bill, including child care, universal pre-K and free community college. At the same time, ag and conservation groups are lobbying Democrats to protect the more than $90 billion in agriculture spending that is included in the $3.5 trillion package pending in the House.
“Whether the drafters of the bill will cut spending proportionally across all of the programs, eliminate some investments in their entirety, or a combination of the two has dominated nearly every conversation inside the Beltway. It is likely that it will be a mix of both approaches,” the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition said in a blog post.
Speaking on CNN's State of the Nation on Sunday, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said it was critical to pass the climate measures.
"Look, the administration and the president are committed to bold climate action. Exactly what legislative form that takes is what's being negotiated right now," he said.
The Build Back Better plan is actually more popular in farm country than the president himself is, according to a new poll sponsored by the One Country Project, a group organized to help Democrats get elected in rural areas.
Some 47% of rural voters support the Build Back Better plan, although 45% of voters say it costs too much; some 42% of voters approve of the job that Biden is doing.
The plan “is a political plus for him, especially if, on passage, people start feeling the benefits,” pollster Doug Usher said on a webinar Friday.
Also this week, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will be in Des Moines, Iowa, for events surrounding the awarding of the World Food Prize and will host bilateral meetings with Mexico’s Secretary of Agriculture and Rural Development Víctor Manuel Villalobos Arámbula.
Vilsack and Villalobos also will appear on a panel Thursday with Canadian Ag Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau.
Also in connection with the World Food Prize Foundation’s Borlaug Dialogue, the Virginia Tech College of Agriculture and Life Sciences will release the 2021 Global Agricultural Productivity Report.
The report will show that productivity isn’t growing as fast as previously thought and that climate change has slowed productivity growth by 21% since 1961.
In Washington on Wednesday, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine will release a report looking at the economic and global health effects of antibiotic resistance.
The report will include recommendations for measures that can be taken by farms and veterinarians to curb resistance. An estimated 2.8 million antibiotic-resistant infections occur in the United States annually, killing more than 35,000 people.
Here is a list of agriculture- or rural-related events scheduled for this week in Washington and elsewhere (all times EDT):
Monday, Oct. 18
World Food Prize Foundation’s annual Borlaug Dialogue and accompanying side events, through Thursday.
4 p.m. — USDA releases weekly Crop Progress report.
Tuesday, Oct. 19
FDA New Era of Smarter Food Safety Summit on E-Commerce: ‘Ensuring the Safety of Foods Ordered Online and Delivered Directly to Consumers,” through Thursday.
Wednesday, Oct. 20
9 a.m. — Virginia Tech College of Agriculture and Life Sciences releases 2021 Global Agricultural Productivity Report.
2 p.m. — House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis hearing, “Good For Business: Private Sector Perspectives on Climate Action,” 210 Cannon.
Thursday, Oct. 21
8:30 a.m. — USDA releases Weekly Export Sales report.
1 p.m. — Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Mexico Ag Secretary Víctor Manuel Villalobos Arámbula and Canadian Ag Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau participate in panel with the Borlaug Dialogue.
Friday, Oct. 22
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