WASHINGTON, April 2 – The House and Senate agreed on Friday to a two-week adjournment for Easter, providing Congress with its first real recess in nearly a year. Lawmakers are heading home during a time when unemployment rates are starting to decline in many states, but the improvement is uneven.

The Labor Department said last Friday that unemployment rates declined in 29 states and rose in 8. Rates were unchanged in 13 states and Washington, D.C. But just as the economy shows signs of improvement, high fuel prices are eating into everyone’s pocketbook.

With gas prices expected to hit a national average of $4.00/gallon this month, lawmakers are likely to get an earful from constituents back home - rekindling some of the old debates over who is responsible for the pain at the pump. Republicans have been eager to blame President Obama for not doing enough to develop domestic oil supplies and build the Keystone XL pipeline. Democrats have been hammering Republicans for their unwillingness to repeal oil industry tax breaks.

On the presidential campaign trail, GOP candidate Mitt Romney’s campaign hopes to lock up his party’s nomination, seeking victories in primaries held in Wisconsin, Maryland, and the District of Columbia this week.

“I think the chances are overwhelming that he will be our nominee. It seems to me we’re in the final phase of wrapping up this nomination.” noted Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-KY, about Romney in an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday.

With about half of the Republican nominating contests complete, Romney has 568 of the 1,144 delegates needed to capture the nomination at the party’s convention in August. Santorum, a former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania, has 273 delegates, but during appearances on Sunday talk shows, Santorum vowed to stay in for the long haul.

The Wisconsin primary is not “do or die,” he said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “We have to win Pennsylvania.”

The next contests will be on April 24 in Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York and Delaware and in Pennsylvania, which Santorum represented in the House and the Senate.

For other scheduled events this week, see the list below.


Monday, April 2

Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Kathleen Merrigan will tour a local food enterprise center in Viroqua, WI

10:00 a.m., House Committee on Small Business | Subcommittee on Agriculture, Energy and Trade Hearing: Impact of U.S. Trade Policies on Small Businesses and Manufacturing, Pittsburgh, PA

Advanced Biofuels Leadership Conference, Capital Hilton Washington, DC

6:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m., "No One’s World: The West, the Rising Rest, and the Coming Global Turn" with Charles Kupchan, Hosted by SFS Mortara Center for International Studies

6:15 p.m. to 7:15 p.m., The Political and Economic Situation in Latin America: A Talk by Secretary-General José Miguel Insulza of the Organization of American States, Hosted by The International Affairs Society

6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., Center Forum with Ambassador Ron Kirk, Hosted by UC Washington Center

USDA Report: Crop Progress

Tuesday, April 3                                   

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack will keynote the Advanced Biofuels Leadership Conference in Washington, DC  

Wednesday, April 4

Advanced Biofuels Leadership Conference, Capital Hilton Washington, DC

Thursday, April 5

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack will host the first ever USDA Twitter town hall on USDA renewable energy accomplishments and goals

Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Kathleen Merrigan will hold a College Tour event at the University of Colorado-Denver in Denver, CO

Advanced Biofuels Leadership Conference, Capital Hilton Washington, DC

USDA Report: U.S. Export Sales

Friday, April 6

8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., FROM DC TO AFRICA: Growing Local, Going Global: Hosted by DC Mayor's Office on African Affairs

Sunday, April 8

USDA Report: World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates


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