House Democratic leaders are working toward passing President Joe Biden’s $1.75 trillion package of climate measures and social spending as soon as this week, along with a $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill.
The larger measure, President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better bill, includes more than $90 billion in ag spending. On Thursday Democrats released a new version of the bill that was slashed in half from a $3.5 trillion bill that House committees prepared in September.
Biden said Sunday at a news conference in Rome that he expected the legislation to pass this week.
Democrats have been working on additional tweaks to the bill in advance of a possible House vote this week. In a “dear colleague” letter to fellow Democrats, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said their “feedback is welcome and necessary, soon, to assist the Rules Committee as it prepares the BBB legislation for Floor action."
A leading progressive, California Rep. Ro Khanna, told CBS' Face the Nation on Sunday, "We are working to add things in. ... I think we can have the vote by Tuesday." There were multiple media reports Monday, however, that the vote could be delayed past Tuesday because of progress in negotiations over prescription drug pricing.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., told CNN's State of the Union that he was working to add provisions requiring pharmaceutical companies to negotiate drug prices for Medicare patients.
Khanna also said there were continuing negotiations during the weekend over some of the climate provisions.
The measure would still need to be approved by the Senate before it is ready for Biden’s signature.
The bill would provide $27 billion in farm conservation spending, including a new $25-per-acre payment to farmers for planting cover crops. Also included in the measure: $27 billion for forestry; $18.3 billion for rural development, including funding for biofuel infrastructure and rural electric cooperatives; $2 billion for agriculture research; $10 billion for child nutrition; and $6 billion for farmer debt relief.
Passage of the legislation would provide a boost to Biden’s efforts to negotiate tougher climate commitments from other nations at the international COP26 conference that began Sunday in Glasgow, Scotland.
The infrastructure bill, which includes $550 billion in new spending on roads, bridges, waterways, rural broadband and western water projects, has already passed the Senate and will head to the White House once the House approves it. The remaining funding in the bill is a continuation of existing spending levels.
The bill has been stalled in the House since August because progressives insisted they wouldn’t support it until they were assured of the passage of the Build Back Better package.
The Glasgow conference aims to put the world on a path to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2050, compared to preindustrial levels. To that end, Biden has committed the United States to cutting its carbon emissions in half by 2030. A UN report issued last week said that the updated pledges to date fell far short of what is needed to get the world on track to net zero emissions by 2050.
Secretary of State Anthony Blinken acknowledged to CNN that China hadn't gone far enough to reduce its own emissions.
"Ultimately, I think what you're going to see in Glasgow is most of the major emitters in the world coming together, raising their ambitions in terms of the commitments they're making to combat climate change, the United States not only doing that, but also putting in the funding necessary to help countries that need help with adaptation, with resilience, to do that. Beijing is going to have to decide whether it's going to live up to its responsibilities, starting with his own people, who are affected directly by climate change."
Agriculture is playing a higher role than ever in the climate conference.
At a G20 leaders summit in Rome on Sunday, the director-general of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, Qu Dongyu, said that "policymakers must feed the world and save the planet at the same time. We need to produce more (quantity, food diversity with higher quality) with less (inputs of resources, impacts on the environment)!"
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack is scheduled to be in Glasgow Thursday through Saturday to promote the Biden administration’s efforts to use agriculture to address climate change.
While there, Vilsack will formally launch a multinational “innovation” coalition that will promote the use of technology, including genetically engineered crops, to increase productivity while reducing agriculture’s climate footprint.
The Biden administration’s 30x30 effort, known as the "America the Beautiful" initiative, also is expected to be a subject of discussion at the summit. The initiative has raised concerns in rural areas across the West in particular, although administration officials insist they intend to rely on voluntary measures, including farm bill conservation programs, to meet the overall goal of having 30% of U.S. land under conservation by 2030.
During the conference, governments also will be trying to make progress toward an agreement on rules around international emissions accounting, a requirement of Article 6 under the 2015 Paris climate agreement. The rules are needed to spur the development of carbon markets and to track progress in meeting the national pledges to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
The chairman of the conservative Congressional Western Caucus, Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Wash., said the COP26 meeting was “little more than an opportunity for the nations of the world to gather and browbeat the United States.
“President Biden’s continued self-flagellation on the global stage, his refusal to defend and promote America’s climate track record, and his insistence on apologizing for our history of supplying the world with clean, affordable, and reliable energy demonstrates his failed leadership.”
Also in Washington this week, the House Agriculture Committee will hold a hearing on the supply chain disruptions that have resulted in higher farm input costs while delaying exports of U.S. ag commodities.
A Senate Agriculture subcommittee, meanwhile, will have a hearing on the state of Americans' nutrition.
Here is a list of agriculture- or rural-related events scheduled for this week in Washington and elsewhere (all times EDT):
Monday, Nov. 1
COP26 international climate conference, Glasgow, through Nov. 12
4 p.m. — USDA releases weekly Crop Progress report.
Tuesday, Nov. 2
10 a.m. — Senate Agriculture subcommittee hearing, “The State of Nutrition in America 2021,” 216 Hart.
Wednesday, Nov. 3
10 a.m. — House Agriculture Committee hearing on supply chain disruptions.
Thursday, Nov. 4
8:30 a.m. — USDA releases Weekly Export Sales report.
Friday, Nov. 5
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