What’s ahead for Washington this week: House gone, Senate to follow

By Jon H. Harsch

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

Washington, August 1 – The House has already skipped town for its August recess. So any legislation which the stalled Senate somehow manages to pass this week to prop up the sagging economy, such as tax breaks and additional support for small business, couldn't become law until after the House returns Sept. 14. But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) is determined to complete one important piece of business: confirming U.S. Solicitor General Elena Kagan to become the newest Supreme Court Justice.

Kagan is expected to win confirmation in a Senate floor vote this week, likely with 63 senators voting for her before the Senate begins its own summer recess on Friday. That expectation grew firmer as five Republicans stepped forward to announce that they will support her confirmation: Sens. Judd Gregg (R-NH), Susan Collins (R-ME), Olympia Snowe (R-ME), Dick Lugar (R-IN), and Lindsey Graham (R-SC). The one disappointment for Democrats so far is that Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) has announced that he will vote against Kagan's confirmation, to reflect, he says, “the concerns raised by Nebraskans” and “her lack of a judicial record.”

But that one defection from Democratic party ranks so far has been more than offset by the five Republicans voting for Kagan – and by Sen. Gregg's statement that “Ms. Kagan and I may have different political philosophies but I believe that the confirmation process should be based on qualifications, not ideological litmus tests or political affiliation.” Also significant is that Sen. Nelson has announced that he would not support any Republican attempt to filibuster the nomination, explaining that “If a cloture vote is held on the nomination of Elena Kagan to the U.S. Supreme Court, I am prepared to vote for cloture and oppose a filibuster because, in my view, this nominee deserves an up or down vote in the Senate.”

The Senate Agriculture Committee focuses on ag trade issues in a hearing Wednesday morning, with U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk a key witness. 

Meanwhile, the focus at USDA will be on the Conservation Reserve Program, with CRP General signup 39 starting Monday, August 2 and running through August 27. USDA hopes to enroll enough new environmentally sensitive acreage under 10- to 15-year contracts starting October 1, 2010 to bring the CRP up to 32 million acres. Note that the continuous signup provisions will continue to be offered during the general signup 39 period. USDA expects the CRP signup 39 “to be highly competitive” and points out that the national environmental benefits index (EBI) cutoff score determined after signup “may be equal to, higher than, or lower than the cutoff score for previous signups.”

With the House out of town on its August recess, to resume business on Sept. 14, for the final week before the Senate begins its own recess, Congressional hearings this week include:

Tuesday, August 3

  • Senate Budget Committee hearing to examine a status report on the United States economy.

  • Senate Energy Subcommittee hearing to examine the role of strategic minerals in clean energy technologies and other applications as well as legislation to address the issue, including S. 3521 the “Rare Earths Supply Technology and Resources Transformation Act of 2010.”

  • Senate Environment Subcommittee hearing on the State of Research on Potential Environmental Health Factors with Autism and Related Neurodevelopment Disorders.”

Wednesday, August 4

  • Senate Agriculture committee hearing on Promoting Agricultural Exports: Reviewing U.S. Agricultural Trade Policy and the Farm Bill’s Trade Title, with testimony from U.S. Trade Representative Ambassador Ron Kirk, American Soybean Association VP Danny Murphy, USA Rice Federation Board member Joe Mencer, Tyson Foods VP Dwayne Rhodes, and National Grape Cooperative Association General Manager Brent Roggie for the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives.

  • Senate Environment Committee hearing on the Use of Oil Dispersants in the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill.

 USDA’s Economic Research Service & National Agricultural Statistics Service reports:
  • Monday, August 2, Dairy Products, Crop Progress

  • Tuesday, August 3, Weather-Crop Summary, Farm Production Expenditures

  • Wednesday August 4, Broiler Hatchery, Land Values and Cash Rents

  • Friday, August 6, Dairy Products Prices, Peanut Prices

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