What’s ahead for Washington this week: Re-energized legislative agenda

By Jon H. Harsch

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

Washington, March 22 – Sunday, March 21 could go down as a watershed moment, the moment when defiant Republican opposition bolstered by 34 Democrats failed to prevent House passage of the major healthcare bill passed by the Senate last Christmas eve. Work will continue on healthcare this week to add the House’s “reconciliation” fixes to the Senate bill. But Senate passage of the reconciliation bill is virtually certain since only a simple 51-vote majority is needed under Senate rules.

Republicans and many states promise constitutional challenges to the new healthcare system designed to make health insurance universal by eliminating “pre-existing condition” exclusions, ending caps on total insurance payments, opening insurance exchanges to make competitively priced insurance available to all, and subsidizing insurance coverage for low-income individuals.

But two fundamentals have changed as of March 21. First, a new health insurance system will become the law of the land, once the legislation is printed and signed. Second, Democrats who seemed demoralized just days ago, are re-energized.

Just after midnight Monday morning, House Rules Committee Chair Louise Slaughter (D-NY) who played a key role in the series of Sunday night votes, summed up the new mood: “There’s nothing now that we can’t tackle!” So even as the loose ends of healthcare are tidied up this week, all the Democrats’ energy which had focused on healthcare now shifts to other top priorities, starting with financial reform legislation, a combined energy/climate bill, and immigration reform.

Expect a different mood when Senate Banking Committee Chair Chris Dodd (D-CT) launches work late Monday afternoon on his financial regulatory reform bill. Another event worth watching Monday in Washington will be the U.S. District Court of Appeals oral arguments on the carbofuran case weighing the Corn Growers and other ag groups versus the EPA’s decision to revoke tolerance levels of carbofuran without a judicial hearing on the revocation decision.

Congressional hearings this week include:

Monday, March 22

  • Senate Banking Committee mark-up of Chairman Dodd’s financial reform bill, “Restoring American Financial Stability Act of 2010”

Tuesday, March 23

  • House Agriculture Subcommittee on Rural Development, Biotechnology, Specialty Crops, and Foreign Agriculture hearing to review rural water infrastructure
  • House Appropriations Agriculture Subcommittee hearing on FY 2011 Budget for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services with James Miller, Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services and other USDA officials
  • Senate Commerce, Science & Transportation Committee hearing to review the National Broadband Plan
  • Senate Energy Committee will consider consensus committee amendments to S. 1462, the American Clean Energy Leadership Act, and other matters

Wednesday, March 24

  • Senate Environment Committee hearing on “Opportunities to Improve Energy Security and the Environment through Transportation Policy”
  • Senate Appropriations Subcommittee hearing Department of Energy FY2011 Budget with Energy Secretary Dr. Steven Chu
  • House Natural Resources Committee markup of H.R. 4225 To authorize drought assistance adjustments in California.

Thursday, March 25

  • Senate Finance Subcommittee on International Trade hearing on “Doubling U.S. Exports: Are U.S. Sea Ports Ready for the Challenge” with Montana Stockgrowers Association Executive VP Errol Rice
  • House Appropriations Subcommittee hearing on FY 2011 Budget for USDA Marketing and Regulatory Programs, with Edward Avalos, Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs and other USDA officials
  • House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee hearing on “Oversight of the Federal Communications Commission: The National Broadband Plan”

USDA’s reports:

  • Monday, March 22, Catfish Feed Deliveries, Chickens and Eggs, Cold Storage, Hop Stocks
  • Tuesday, March 23, Weather-Crop Summary
  • Wednesday March 24, Broiler Hatchery
  • Thursday, March 25, Cotton Ginnings, Poultry Slaughter, Monthly Milk Cost of Production
  • Friday, March 26, Dairy Products Prices, Livestock Slaughter, Peanut Prices, Peanut Stocks and Processing, Price Reactions After USDA Livestock Reports, Quarterly Hogs and Pigs, Fruit and Tree Nuts Outlook

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