WASHINGTON, June 21, 2015 – Senate Republicans will look to send the fast-track trade bill to President Obama this week, while the House debates a spending measure that would block a wide array of environmental regulations.

The House broke a deadlock on the trade issue last week by splitting the Trade Promotion Authority measure from an extension of Trade Adjustment Assistance programs. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has set up an expedited process to pass both TPA and TAA in that chamber this week, but he’ll need the support of the 14 pro-TPA Democrats to do it.

A cloture vote on the TPA bill (HR 2146) is expected Tuesday. Getting the necessary 60 votes will depend on President Obama’s “ability to convince Democratic senators who support trade that this is the path toward approval of trade promotion authority,” Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., told Agri-Pulse.

Obama used his Saturday radio address to make the case. “I believe it’s the right thing to do for American workers and families, or I wouldn’t be doing it,” he said. “I believe it’s what will give us the competitive edge in a new economy, or I wouldn’t be doing it.”

With the critical Senate votes pending, U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman is tentatively scheduled to speak Wednesday at a trade fly-in hosted by the White House Business Council and Business Roundtable.

California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who was one of the 14 Democrats who voted for the combined TPA-TAA bill in May, told Agri-Pulse she expected the group to support the TPA-only bill as well. However, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, Ron Wyden of Oregon appeared to be looking for assurance that a third bill (HR644), authorizing trade enforcement measures, would be passed along with TAA and TPA.

The House passed the TPA bill, 218-208, under a plan worked out between the White House and GOP leaders that calls for attaching the TAA extension to another bill (HR 1295) renewing duty-free treatment, or “preferences,” for imports from developing countries. Both the Senate, and then the House, will have to approve the bill again after the TAA extension is appended.

Spending bill sets broad attack on WOTUS, ozone, ESA listings

On Thursday, the House is set to debate a fiscal 2016 appropriations bill for the Interior Department and Environmental Protection Agency that would block implementation of the administration’s new Clean Water Act rule, which re-defines the “waters of the United States” (WOTUS), as well as the EPA’s proposed greenhouse gas regulations for electric utilities.

The bill, which largely mirrors the Interior-Environment measure that the Senate Appropriations Committee approved last week, also includes a rider to block the EPA from lowering the limit for ground-level ozone. Both bills also would continue to block the Fish and Wildlife Service from listing the sage grouse under the Endangered Species Act and would force the delisting of the gray wolf in Wyoming and the Great Lakes area.

One amendment the House is likely to debate would go a step further and suspend the agency’s enforcement of its listing of the lesser prairie chicken as a threatened species. Moran won approval of an amendment to the Senate bill to block ESA protection of the bird.

Also this week, the House is set to approve a bill that would allow futures contracts for foreign-produced cotton. The cotton bill (HR 2620), which the House Agriculture Committee approved only last week, would amend a 1916 law that restricts U.S.-listed cotton futures to domestically produced cotton that is inspected by the Agriculture Department and delivered to one of five U.S. cities. 

Senate Ag mulls COOL future, House Appropriations marks up Ag bill

The Senate Agriculture Committee, meanwhile, will take a step toward addressing the country-of-origin labeling law for meat, which the House has voted overwhelmingly to repeal. The committee will hold a hearing on the issue on Thursday. Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., has been trying to work out an agreement with the committee’s ranking Democrat, Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, and other members of the panel.

Stabenow and other defenders of COOL say that repeal is premature, given that the World Trade Organization has yet to authorize the amount of retaliatory tariffs that Canada and Mexico can levy until the regulations are withdrawn. The Obama administration is seeking WTO arbitration over the level of retaliation.

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(For the latest on COOL, watch an interview with Agri-Pulse associate editor Spencer Chase during an appearance on C-Span’s Washington Journal on Saturday.)

The House Appropriations Committee is scheduled Thursday to mark up its fiscal 2016 spending bill for the Agriculture Department and Food and Drug Administration. The bill increases food safety funding for the FDA and provides more money for combatting the avian flu and boosting rural development programs at USDA while cutting conservation programs and energy spending.

Here’s a list of agriculture- or rural-related events scheduled for this week in Washington and elsewhere:

Monday, June 22

National Council of Farmer Cooperatives conference, Hyatt Regency Capitol Hill.

U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman and Labor Secretary Thomas Perez will meet privately with the Labor Department’s Labor Advisory Committee for Trade Negotiations and Trade Policy.

4 p.m. – USDA releases weekly Crop Progress report.

Tuesday, June 23  

NCFC conference. Speakers include Darci Vetter, USTR’s chief agricultural negotiator.

10 a.m. – Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee hearing on the cost of regulations, G50 Dirksen.

10 a.m. – Senate Transportation-HUD Appropriations Subcommittee marks up fiscal 2016 spending bill, 138 Dirksen.

2 p.m. – Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing on the impact of the EPA’s Clean Power Plan on businesses, rural communities and families, 406 Dirksen.

3 p.m. – Senate Labor-HHS Appropriations Subcommittee marks up fiscal 2016 spending bill, 138 Dirksen.

Wednesday, June 24

NCFC conference.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack hosts a national media call with California’s natural resources secretary, John Laird, on new federal and state efforts for the state.

Froman is tentatively scheduled to speak at trade fly-in hosted by the White House Business Council and Business Roundtable.

10 a.m. – House Agriculture Committee hearing on international food aid programs, 1300 Longworth.

10 a.m. – House Education and Workforce Committee hearing on the cost of complying with child nutrition standards, 2175 Rayburn.

10 a.m. – House Science, Space and Technology subcommittee hearing on the Energy Information Administration’s analysis of the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, 2318 Rayburn.

10 a.m. – House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee hearing on the transportation needs of rural America, 2167 Rayburn.

10 a.m. – House Appropriations Committee marks up fiscal 2016 Labor-HHS bill, 2359 Rayburn.

Thursday, June 25

Froman speaks at Foreign Policy’s Competitiveness Forum and meets with Stéphane Le Foll, the French minister for agriculture, food industry and forestry.

8:30 a.m. – USDA releases Weekly Export Sales.

9 a.m. – USDA releases monthly Food Price Outlook.

9:30 a.m. - House Appropriations Committee marks up the Agriculture spending bill, 2359 Rayburn. 

10 a.m. – Joint hearing by House Agriculture and House Ways and Means subcommittees on whether the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program discourages work, 1100 Longworth.

10 a.m. – Senate Agriculture Committee hearing on country of origin labeling, G50 Dirksen.

1:30 p.m. – House Agriculture subcommittee hearing on food labeling activities at USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service, 1300 Longworth.

Friday, June 12


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