By Jon H. Harsch

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

Washington, Nov. 14 – Congress resumes business this week in a lame-duck session overloaded with issues led by federal government appropriations, expiring tax cuts, expiring unemployment benefits, and the nuclear arms treaty with Russia. A score of other urgent bills to be considered items include child nutrition legislation reauthorization – something Agriculture Sec. Vilsack and Education Sec. Duncan will call for in a press conference Monday. The Senate could vote on long-awaited food safety legislation as early as Wednesday.

The Republicans' new Tea Party wing wants to limit lame-duck congressional action to just two items: passing an FY '11 continuing resolution to fund the government and making the expiring Bush tax cuts permanent. Some in the Tea Party suggest that doing anything else before the new Republican-led House takes over in January would be outrageous considering the Republicans' dramatic gains in the midterm elections. Newly elected members of Congress will be in town this week for their freshman orientation, but there may be more interest in learning from the new members what their intentions are than in teaching them about the hallowed ways of Congress.

The lame-duck's first week will include party leadership elections and organizational meetings. Congressional leaders from both parties will meet with President Obama Thursday at the White House before leaving for their Thanksgiving break. They'll have plenty to consider over the holiday because on Wednesday, the Bipartisan Policy Center headed by four former Senate Majority Leaders, Sens. Howard Baker, Tom Daschle, Bob Dole and George Mitchell, will release its own deficit reduction recommendations. These recommendations are expected to reinforce last week's get-tough message from the Bowles/Simpson deficit commission report which called for drastic federal spending cuts and tax reforms.

After his pitch for child nutrition reauthorization Monday, Agriculture Sec. Vilsack will cover the federal response to childhood obesity as well as administration efforts to improve health through preventative measures Tuesday when he delivers the keynote address at an Aspen Health Stewardship Project conference. On Wednesday, he travels to New York City to address a Bread for the World conference on global food security.

Congressional hearings this week include:

Monday, November 15

  • House Science & Technology Committee field hearing in Chicago on Options and Opportunities for Onsite Renewable Energy Integration.

Tuesday, November 16

  • Senate Banking Committee hearing on Problems in Mortgage Servicing from Modification to Foreclosure.

Wednesday, November 17

  • Senate Environment & Public Works Committee hearing on the Water Resources Development Act, to Benefit the Economy, Create Jobs, Protect Public Safety & Maintain America’s Water Resources Infrastructure.

  • House Science & Technology Committee hearing on A Rational Discussion of Climate Change: the Science, the Evidence, the Response.

  • House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee hearing on the Emerging Importance of the U.S.-Central Asia Partnership.

  • House Judiciary Committee hearing on Foreclosed Justice: Causes and Effects of the Foreclosure Crisis.

Thursday, November 18

  • Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on U.S. global competitiveness and national economic security.

  • Senate Finance Committee hearing on international trade in the digital economy.

  • Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Subcommittee hearing on The State of the American Child: Securing Our Children’s Future.

  • House Financial Services Subcommittee hearing on Robo-Signing, Chain of Title, Loss Mitigation and Other Issues in Mortgage Servicing.

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

  • Monday, November 15, Household Food Security in the United States 2009, Sugar and Sweeteners Outlook, Aquaculture Data, Crop Progress

  • Tuesday, November 16, Weather-Crop Summary

  • Wednesday November 17, Meat Price Spreads, Broiler Hatchery, Turkey Hatchery

  • Thursday, November 18, Catfish Processing, Farm Labor, Milk Production

  • Friday, November 19, Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry Outlook, Feed Grains Database, Wheat Data, Dairy Products Prices, Cattle on Feed, Peanut Prices

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