Democratic leaders are pushing for House passage of President Joe Biden’s package of social and climate spending priorities this week, while the Senate is set to debate an Agriculture Department nominee who will be key to carrying out the administration's climate policy.
Meanwhile, Biden on Monday afternoon will sign into law the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill that cleared the House Nov. 5. Then, he will quickly pivot to foreign affairs to meet virtually Monday evening with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
On Thursday, Biden will host Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador for the first North American Leaders Summit since 2016.
Biden and Xi “will discuss ways to responsibly manage the competition between the United States and the PRC, as well as ways to work together where our interests align,” the White House said. “Throughout, President Biden will make clear U.S. intentions and priorities and be clear and candid about our concerns with the PRC.”
On Thursday, Biden, Trudeau and Lopez Obrador "will reaffirm their strong ties and integration while also charting a new path for collaboration on ending the COVID-19 pandemic and advancing health security; competitiveness and equitable growth, to include climate change; and a regional vision for migration," the White House said Sunday.
White House expresses confidence in Build Back Better passage
On Capitol Hill, the biggest question mark heading into the week is whether House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., can secure the votes needed to pass Biden’s Build Back Better Act, which includes $90 billion in agriculture, forestry, rural development and nutrition provisions.
During an appearance on CNN Sunday, the director of the National Economic Council, Brian Deese, denied that increased government spending under Biden had contributed to inflation or that the BBB bill would worsen it. "We need to make a fully-paid-for investment that will actually unlock more opportunity, to get more people working in the economy. And that's where our focus is," he said.
The bill, estimated to cost around $2 trillion over 10 years, is certain to be scaled back in the 50-50 Senate, but Democrats first have to get it to that chamber. Democrats control the House by a narrow margin of 221-213, so Pelosi can only afford to lose the votes of three party moderates. No Republicans will vote for the legislation.
A group of moderates agreed to vote for the bill this week so long as the official cost estimates for the bill are in line with the White House’s projections. The Congressional Budget Office has released some, but not all, of the estimates for sections of the bill and has provided no timetable for issuing the rest.
Pelosi said in a “Dear Colleague” letter Friday that the CBO is expected to issue three additional reports on Monday.
"We are confident that Speaker Pelosi is going to bring it up and that it will pass this week," Deese said. "We will move forward to the next process and moving it to the Senate."
House Democrats who attended the COP26 international climate conference in Glasgow, Scotland, see the bill as crucial to showing U.S. leadership in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
"It’s time to vote," said Florida Rep. Kathy Castor, a Democrat who chairs the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis. "President Biden has been negotiating for many months now. We have worked out a package that meets our clean energy goals."
In a separate Dear Colleague message on Sunday, Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said that the timing of Senate action on the bill "will largely depend on when the House sends us the bill and when CBO finalizes their scores for all of the committees, which are needed to complete the 'Byrd Bath' process."
The latter issue refers to the changes that would have to be made to the bill to remove non-spending provisions that don't comply with the Senate's Byrd rule for budget reconciliation measures.Schumer didn't mention the likelihood that Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., would insist on cuts to the legislation.
Busy week for USDA nominees
The Senate will vote this week on the nomination of Robert Bonnie to be USDA’s undersecretary for farm production and conservation.
In the post, Bonnie would oversee a climate-smart agriculture and forestry partnership program that Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack is setting up to test various approaches to building markets for climate-related products, including carbon offsets, using his Commodity Credit Corp. spending authority.
Bonnie also would oversee the $27 billion in new conservation funding that is included in the Build Back Better Act.
Holds that unidentified senators put on Bonnie’s nomination prevented Bonnie from being confirmed under an expedited process needing only a voice vote. The Senate will first hold a cloture vote necessary to debate Bonnie’s nomination and then a second vote to approve him. He is not expected to have a problem getting the necessary majority vote.
On Wednesday, the Senate Agriculture Committee will hold a confirmation hearing for two more nominees to senior USDA positions, Chavonda Jacobs-Young to be undersecretary for research, education, and economics and the department’s chief scientist, and Margo Schlanger to be assistant secretary for civil rights.
Jacobs-Young, who has served at USDA for two decades, has been serving as the acting undersecretary and chief scientist. The REE mission area includes the Agricultural Research Service, National Institute of Food and Agriculture, the National Agricultural Statistics Service, Economic Research Service, and Office of the Chief Scientist. She was founding director of the Office of the Chief Scientist.
Schlanger is a veteran civil rights lawyer who teaches at the University of Michigan and once clerked for the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Biden pledges infrastructure oversight
Ahead of Monday's bill signing, Biden on Sunday night announced the appointment of former New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu to oversee implementation of the infrastructure bill, which includes $550 bill in new funding for roads, bridges, ports and waterways, rural broadband and Western water projects among other needs.
Landrieu "will oversee the most significant and comprehensive investments in American infrastructure in generations—work that independent experts verify will create millions of high-paying, union jobs while boosting our economic competitiveness in the world, strengthening our supply chains, and acting against inflation for the long term," the White House said.
Republicans argue that the Build Back Better bill will worsen inflation and that the infrastructure bill won't turn around Biden's slumping approval ratings.
Few Americans think the country "is heading in the right direction. And no matter what bill the president happens to sign tomorrow, that's not going to change the failing grades," Sen. John Barrasso told ABC News on Sunday.
He said the BBB bill will exacerbate inflation because of provisions that "are going to raise energy costs considerably in the year ahead, at a time when the American people are already paying sky-high prices to heat their homes, to drive their cars, to buy groceries, and inflation as we know hurts the most vulnerable."
Here is a list of agriculture- or rural-related events scheduled for this week in Washington and elsewhere (all times EDT):
Monday, Nov. 15
3 p.m. - President Biden signs the infrastructure bill, White House South Lawn.
4 p.m. — USDA releases weekly Crop Progress report.
7:45 p.m. - Biden meets virtually with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Tuesday, Nov. 16
10 a.m. — House Agriculture subcommittee hearing, “A Look at the Renewable Economy in Rural America,” 1300 Longworth.
10 a.m. — House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing, “Cracking Down on Ransomware: Strategies for Disrupting Criminal Hackers and Building Resilience Against Cyber Threats,” 2154 Rayburn.
10:15 a.m. — Senate Finance Committee hearing on the nomination of Marisa Lago to be the Commerce Department’s undersecretary for international trade, 215 Dirksen.
Wednesday, Nov. 17
National Association of Farm Broadcasting annual convention, through Friday, Kansas City.
Sustainable Agriculture Summit, co-sponsored by Agri-Pulse, through Thursday.
10 a.m. — House Agriculture subcommittee hearing, “Trade Policy and Priorities,” 1300 Longworth.
10 a.m. — Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing on the nomination of Martha Williams to be director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 406 Dirksen.
10:30 a.m. — Senate Agriculture Committee hearing for the nominations of Chavonda Jacobs-Young to be USDA’s undersecretary for research, education, and economics and Margo Schlanger to be USDA's assistant secretary for civil rights, 301 Russell.
2:30 p.m. — Senate Homeland Security Committee hearing, “Federal Government Perspective: Improving Security, Trade, and Travel Flows at the Southwest Border Ports of Entry,” 342 Dirksen.
Thursday, Nov. 18
Biden hosts North American Leaders’ Summit.
8:30 a.m. — USDA releases Weekly Export Sales report.
10:30 a.m. — Heritage Foundation webinar, “2021 Antipoverty Forum: Roadmap for a New Generation of Welfare Reform.”
Friday, Nov. 19
Biden holds annual Thanksgiving turkey pardoning.
For more news, go to: www.Agri-Pulse.com.