President Joe Biden is expected to sit down early this week with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and other congressional leaders as they continue negotiations on increasing the debt ceiling and GOP demands for spending cuts.
This is the last week both the House and Senate will be in session at the same time until early June, when the government's debt ceiling could be breached for the first time. The Congressional Budget Office said Friday that there was a “significant risk” in the first two weeks of June that the government would be unable to pay all its obligations.
Congressional staff and White House aides were to be meeting through the weekend. Biden, who is scheduled to head to Japan on Thursday for the G-7 summit, told reporters Saturday the talks were “moving along.” He added, “We’ve not reached the crunch point yet. There’s real discussion about some changes we all could make. We’re not there yet.”
Asked if he was confident there would be a deal before June, Biden said, “Has to be.”
Also this week, the Senate Agriculture Committee is expected to vote Wednesday on the nomination of Xochitl Torres Small to be deputy agriculture secretary, replacing Jewel Bronaugh, who left the post earlier this year.
Torres Small, who is currently serving as undersecretary for rural development, is not expected to have any trouble winning Senate confirmation unless senators delay her nomination to gain leverage on other concerns. The deputy secretary is typically tasked with being the chief operations officer for the department.
At her confirmation hearing last week, Senate Ag members pushed her to speed the delivery of USDA services and to address the concerns of underserved producers. The former New Mexico congresswoman said she would focus on finding ways to simplify access to assistance programs, including by removing match requirements, and making sure USDA staff have the training and tools to deliver programs more efficiently.
Meanwhile, a Senate Agriculture subcommittee will have a hearing on Thursday on rural broadband. House Agriculture subcommittees will have hearings this week on forestry issues and animal agriculture concerns.
Despite the lack of a deal on spending, the GOP-controlled House is expected to begin moving its fiscal 2024 appropriations bills this week.
The military construction-veteran affairs bill is due to be one of the first considered. House Rules Committee Chairman Tom Cole, an Oklahoma Republican who is also a senior member of the Appropriations Committee, confirmed that Republicans wanted to use the bill to push back on White House claims that the House-passed Limit, Save and Grow Act would result in cuts to veterans programs.
“We're going to scale back some spending, but that doesn't mean it's going to be equal across the board. And veterans are a pretty big deal to, I think, both parties,” Cole told reporters. “Obviously that means other places, the Democrats are fair to say, (the cuts) are going to be bigger.”
Cole said the House-passed Limit, Save and Grow Act was “an opening position in a negotiation.”
Cole also made clear that increasing the debt ceiling will come at a price to Biden, describing the talks as a “test of wills.” Cole said if he were president, he would want a deal on the debt ceiling that assures it won’t need to be raised again until after the 2024 election.
“I don't think you get that for free,” he said.
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Meanwhile, Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y. sought to keep the heat on Republicans, while assuring colleagues the White House and congressional leaders were looking for a deal.
“We welcome a bipartisan debate about our nation’s fiscal future,” Schumer said in a letter to colleagues on Friday. “But as the President, Leader Jeffries and I made plain to our Republican colleagues, we must not do so under the reckless threat of catastrophic default by the hard-right.
“This is too important for brinkmanship and reckless ultimatums. White House staff, along with aides from my office, the Speaker’s office, Leader McConnell’s office, and Leader Jeffries’ office will continue to meet in an attempt to find a constructive way forward.”
Here is a list of agriculture- or rural-related events scheduled for this week in Washington and elsewhere (all times EDT):
Monday, May 15
Noon — Agri-Pulse hosts a webinar exploring the latest Congressional Budget Office baseline: The Farm Bill: Where are we now? Agri-Pulse Executive Editor Philip Brasher is joined by John Newton, chief economist for the Senate Agriculture Committee’s minority staff, and Jacqlyn Schneider, a former top aide to Senate Ag Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich.
4 p.m. — USDA releases weekly Crop Progress report.
Tuesday, May 16
10 a.m. — House Agriculture subcommittee hearing, “To review the National Forest System: Supporting Forest Health and Confronting the Wildlife Crisis,” 1300 Longworth.
10:15 a.m. — House Natural Resources subcommittee hearing on the Bureau of Reclamation and Office of Surface Mining, Reclamation and Enforcement, 1324 Longworth.
10:15 a.m. — Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing on the Fish and Wildlife Service, 406 Dirksen.
2 p.m. — Senate Appropriations Committee hearing, “A Review of the President’s Fiscal Year 24 Budget Request: Investing in U.S. Security, Competitiveness, and the Path Ahead for the U.S.-China Relationship,” 106 Dirksen.
2:30 p.m. — Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing, “Perspectives on New and Existing U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Authorities to Respond to Water Management Issues Including Drought and Water Conservation,” 406 Dirksen.
Wednesday, May 17
10 a.m. — House Agriculture subcommittee hearing, “A Review of Animal Agriculture Stakeholder Priorities,” 1300 Longworth.
2 p.m. — House Oversight and Accountability subcommittee hearing, “Driving Bad Policy: Examining EPA’s Tailpipe Emissions Rules and the Realities of a Rapid Electric Vehicle Transition.”
3 p.m. — Senate Agriculture subcommittee hearing on rural broadband, 328A Russell.
Thursday, May 18
8:30 a.m. — USDA releases Weekly Export Sales report.
10:15 a.m. — Senate Finance Committee hearing on tax incentives in the Inflation Reduction Act, 215 Dirksen.
Friday, May 19
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