Lawmakers return to Capitol Hill this week as Democratic leaders are desperately trying to cobble together an agreement on a reconciliation bill that could fund President Joe Biden’s climate agenda.
Time is running short for a deal, given the long August recess and the small number of legislative days this fall ahead of the midterm elections. Biden’s stalled Build Back Better bill contains more than $300 billion in clean energy tax incentives, including a broad new tax credit for low-carbon biofuels, plus $20 billion for farm bill conservation programs and payments of $25 an acre to farmers who plant cover crops.
Last month’s Supreme Court decision blocking the Environmental Protection Agency's proposed restrictions on power plants has provided new urgency for Democrats to pass the climate provisions, but they’ll have to convince Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., to go along. Under reconciliation rules, Democrats can move the bill in the Senate with no Republican support as long as all 50 Democrats vote for it.
The slimmed-down version Democrats are now trying to reach agreement on could include authorization for the government to negotiate lower drug prices for Medicare beneficiaries.
“There are promising signs that the Senate may soon be able to advance a reconciliation bill that would lower costs for Americans and invest in addressing our climate crisis,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said on Friday.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre declined to confirm that August was the effective deadline for the intraparty negotiations. “We think this is something that is going to help Americans, American families, and we're going to continue to have the negotiations. We're going to continue to have the conversations to make sure we deliver for the American public,” she said.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., sought to throw a roadblock in Democrats’ plans when he announced after the Supreme Court decision that Republicans would refuse to cooperate with passing a China competitiveness bill if Democrats insist on moving the partisan reconciliation bill. Any final deal on the competitiveness legislation would need at least 10 votes to pass the Senate.
Also this week, House Democrats are pulling together a package of six fiscal 2023 spending bills, including the measures that fund the Agriculture Department, Food and Drug Administration, Environmental Protection Agency and Interior Department.
Wednesday is the deadline for House members to propose amendments to the package they would like to be considered on the floor; the Rules Committee will ultimately decide which amendments are made in order.
The $27.2 billion measure funding USDA, FDA and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission would provide significant new funding for conservation technical assistance, rural broadband and food safety. Republicans argue the 8.3% increase in spending in the overall bill is excessive.
The funding in that measure and other parts of the six-bill package is likely to be cut significantly during negotiations with the Senate, which has yet to begin work on its version.
Also this week, the National Corn Growers Association and American Soybean America hold annual meetings where they are expected to discuss policy positions and priorities and the House Agriculture Committee will continue its examination of farm bill issues.
Delegates to NCGA’s Corn Congress “will debate and vote on the organization’s priorities, which are likely to drive our positioning for the upcoming farm bill,” Brooke Appleton, NCGA’s vice president for public policy, said in a message to her group's members.
“We also want to use Corn Congress as an opportunity to educate NCGA’s members on the coalition necessary to pass a farm bill, especially in such a partisan environment,” Appleton said. To that end, she will be moderating a farm bill discussion with former Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., former Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman and former Farm Service Agency Administrator Richard Fordyce.
The House Agriculture Committee will have a subcommittee hearing Wednesday on forestry programs followed by a full committee hearing Thursday on credit needs of young, beginning and underserved producers.
On Tuesday, House Ag Democrats Jim McGovern of Massachusetts and Chellie Pingree of Maine, will join representatives of the Food Recovery Network, Bread for the World and other groups at a Capitol Hill news conference to promote the Food Donation Improvement Act, a bill intended to make it easier for farmers to donate surplus food to communities that need it. A panel discussion will be held Wednesday in the Rayburn House Office Building.
Here is a list of agriculture- or rural-related events scheduled for this week in Washington and elsewhere (all times EDT):
Monday, July 11
National Corn Growers Association’s annual Corn Congress, through Thursday.
4 p.m. — USDA releases weekly Crop Progress report.
Tuesday, July 12
American Soybean Association board of directors meeting, through Thursday.
9 a.m. — Press conference by supporters of the Food Donation Improvement Act, Capitol HC-5.
Wednesday, July 13
8:30 a.m. — Bureau of Labor Statistics releases the Consumer Price Index for June.
9:30 a.m. — Panel discussion on the Food Donation Improvement Act, 2044 Rayburn.
10 a.m. — House Agriculture subcommittee hearing, “A 2022 Review of the Farm Bill: Forestry,” 1300 Longworth.
10 a.m. — Senate Interior-Environment Appropriations Subcommittee hearing with Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, 124 Dirksen.
2:30 p.m. — Senate Energy and Natural Resources subcommittee hearing on pathways to lower energy prices, 366 Dirksen.
Thursday, July 14
8:30 a.m. — USDA releases Weekly Export Sales report.
9 a.m. — Brookings Institution forum, “Improving Global Supply Chains,” 1775 Massachusetts Ave. NW.
9 a.m. — House Select Committee on Economic Disparity and Growth roundtable, “Building Inclusive Prosperity for Rural America,” 210 Cannon.
10 a.m. — House Agriculture Committee hearing, “A 2022 Review of the Farm Bill: The State of Credit for Young, Beginning, and Underserved Producers,” 1300 Longworth.
Friday, July 15
9 a.m. — House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis hearing,“Climate Smart from Farm to Fork: Building an Affordable and Resilient Food Supply Chain,” 1334 Longworth.
Noon — National Academy of Sciences webinar, “Science on the Hill: Climate-Smart Agriculture.”
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