What’s ahead for Washington this week: Oil spilling over into politics

By Jon H. Harsch

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

Washington, May 16 – Congressional committees are continuing to hold hearings on the BP offshore oil disaster, with the focus this week on the administration’s response and the lengthening list of consequences.

The Senate will also continue its work on the Wall Street reform bill. This debate could get even more interesting with the EU finance ministers voting Tuesday on whether to impose strict regulations on hedge funds and private-equity firms – new regulations which could limit the activities of U.S. hedge funds in Europe. Meanwhile, an Italian trial of major financial institutions including JP Morgan Chase begins Wednesday, with allegations of fraud involving the sale of derivatives between 2005 and 2007 based on a €1.7 billion Milan municipal bond. This added focus on hedge funds, banks, and possible fraud could increase pressure on the Senate to pass the legislation this week and move on to reconciling the Senate and House bills.

In other congressional action, the tax extenders bill is on the House floor calendar for this week. The legislation includes the biodiesel tax incentive extension and the ag disaster package championed by Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Blanche Lincoln (D-AR).  The expectation is that Senate will give final approval shortly after House passage and that the bill will be on President Obama’s desk by Friday – giving the green light to shuttered biodiesel plants to reopen and rehire laid off workers.

Meanwhile Agriculture Secretary Vilsack will give the keynote address at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs Symposium on Agriculture and Food Security on Thursday. On Friday, he travels to Normal, AL with Attorney General Holder to take part in the joint USDA/Justice Department workshop on consolidation in the poultry industry.

Also down South, among the intra-party contests being decided in the Super Tuesday primaries this week, Arkansas Democrats will vote on Senate Ag Committee Chair Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) vs. union-backed Lt. Gov. Bill Halter in a contest which may end up with a June 8 runoff.

In Pennsylvania Tuesday, former Republican Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) faces a tough challenge from Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA). In a test of Tea Party strength vs the Republican establishment, the race to replace retiring Sen. Jim Bunning (R-KY) is between newcomer Rand Paul, supported by Sara Palin and Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC), and Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson, backed by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).

Mexican President Felipe Calderón will be in Washington for meetings with President Obama and senior officials and will address a joint session of Congress on Thursday, guaranteeing there will be discussion of the drug war, immigration issues, and the Mexican trucking dispute.

Congressional hearings this week include:

Monday, May 17

  • House Agriculture Committee hearing, Texas Tech University, Lubbock, TX, continuing the committee’s review of U.S. agriculture policy in advance of the 2012 Farm Bill.

Tuesday, May 18

  • House Agriculture Committee hearing, Augustana College, Sioux Falls, SD, continuing the review of U.S. agriculture policy in advance of the 2012 Farm Bill.
  • Senate Energy Committee hearing on issues related to offshore oil and gas exploration, including the ongoing crisis in the Gulf of Mexico involving the oil rig Deepwater Horizon, with Interior Secretary Ken Salazar
  • Senate Commerce Committee hearing on the Response Efforts to the Gulf Coast Oil Spill
  • Senate Environment Committee hearing on Federal Response to the Recent Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico, with Interior Sec. Salazar, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson and others.

Wednesday, May 19

  • Senate Rules Committee hearing on Examining the Filibuster: The Filibuster Today and Its Consequences
  • House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee hearing on Deepwater Horizon: Oil Spill Prevention and Response Measures, and Natural Resource Impacts

Thursday, May 20

  • Senate Banking Committee hearing on Examining the Causes and Lessons of the May 6th Market Plunge, with SEC Chair Mary Schapiro and CFTC Chair Gary Gensler
  • Senate Energy Committee hearing to consider S. 2921, a bill to provide for the conservation, enhanced recreation opportunities and development of renewable energy in the California Desert Conservation Area.  The legislation would require the Secretary of the Interior to designate certain offices to serve as Renewable Energy Coordination Offices for Federal permits for renewable energy projects and transmission lines to integrate renewable energy development 
  • Senate Finance Subcommittee hearing on Clean Technology Manufacturing Competitiveness: the Role of Tax Incentives,” to examine the Advanced Energy Project Credit, the first Federal tax credit for clean-energy manufacturers

USDA’s Economic Research Service & National Agricultural Statistics Service reports:

  • Monday, May 17, Crop Progress
  • Tuesday, May 18, Weather-Crop Summary, Catfish Processing, Milk Production
  • Wednesday May 19, Agricultural Chemical Usage - Field Crops, Broiler Hatchery, Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry Outlook, Meat Price Spreads
  • Thursday, May 20, Farm Labor, Vegetable and Melons Yearbook Data tables, Wheat Data, Feed Grains Database
  • Friday, May 21, Dairy Products Prices, Livestock Slaughter, Catfish Feed Deliveries, Cattle on Feed, Chickens and Eggs, Cold Storage, Peanut Prices

For other Agri-Pulse news stories, go to: http://agri-pulse.com