WASHINGTON, Nov. 30, 2016 - House Democrats select their leadership today as they struggle to figure out how to deal with a White House and Congress that will both be controlled by Republicans next year. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California is fighting off a challenge from Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan. 

Ryan has been considered a long shot, but a victory for him would have implications for agriculture. Ryan said in an interview last year that he wants to use subsidies to increase production of local produce and lean meats. He’s the author of a book called The Real Food Revolution: Healthy Eating, Green Groceries, and the Return of the American Family Farm

Levin quitting Ways and Means post. A big change is coming at the top of the House Ways and Means Committee, which handles tax and trade policy. Sandy Levin of Michigan announced yesterday that he’s stepping down as the committee’s ranking Democrat to make way for younger leadership.

Levin was a strong critic of Obama’s free-trade policy. 

Biofuel tax extenders headed for expiration. It appears that a series of tax benefits for biofuels will be allowed to expire at the end of the year. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., says there are no plans to address the expiring measures during the lame duck session. 

The expiring measures include the $1-a-gallon tax credit for biodiesel and additional tax incentives for cellulosic ethanol production and alternative fuel infrastructure.

For more about the tax extenders and other priorities for the lame duck, read this week’s Agri-Pulse newsletter. 

Farm Foundation hosts farm bill debate. The Farm Foundation is sponsoring a forum at the National Press Club on what Congress should do in the next farm bill. The event will feature widely divergent views on the bill represented by Chuck Conner, president and CEO of the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives; Scott Faber, vice president of government affairs for the Environmental Working Group, and Daren Bakst, agricultural research policy fellow for the Heritage Foundation.

Trump expands USTR team, no talk of trade merger. Donald Trump’s proposal to merge trade policy in the Commerce Department doesn’t appear to be a priority. Spokesman Jason Miller told reporters yesterday that there has been no discussion during the transition about moving the U.S. Trade Representative’s office to Commerce.

But Trump is making clear with his selection of transition advisers that he intends to carry out his campaign pledges to toughen trade enforcement, especially when it comes to China. Trump has added two members to his transition team at the USTR.

One is Stephen Vaughn, a trade lawyer with King and Spalding who focuses on antidumping and countervailing duty cases. (He was involved in a 2009 case against China involving steel tubing.) He also has experience with dispute settlement panels under the North American Free Trade Agreement. 

Also on the USTR team is Nova Daly, a veteran of the last Bush administration who has expertise in China and other issues, including the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States.

Trump picks Chao, considers immigration hardliner for Labor.  Trump named two additional Cabinet posts yesterday - Elaine Chao for Transportation and House Budget Chairman Tom Price for Health and Human Services. 

Chao, the wife of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, served as secretary of labor under George W. Bush. Her nomination suggests Trump is serious about passing a major infrastructure bill next year. 

Trump said in a statement that Chao has an “extensive record of strong leadership and her expertise are invaluable assets in our mission to rebuild our infrastructure in a fiscally responsible manner.”

Pennsylvania Congressman Lou Barletta, who has been a critic of illegal immigration going back to his term as a small-town mayor, met with Trump yesterday about running the Department of Labor. Barletta helped lead an effort last year to defund President Obama’s executive actions on immigration. 

As mayor Hazelton, Pa., Barletta vowed to make his town difficult for illegal immigrants to live and work in. He won passage of a first-in-the-nation ordinance to prevent them from owning or renting homes there. A federal judge later struck down the law.

The Labor Department operates guest worker programs as well as regulating worker safety.

GOP forecast: Border security, pass the REINS Act. Congressional Republicans are already focusing on what they want to do first in the next Congress. At the top of the agenda are a repeal of the Affordable Care Act and border security legislation. 

House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy indicated yesterday that the House also plans to vote again on legislation that would make it easier for Congress to block new regulations. The bill, called the REINS Act, or the Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny Act, would require an up-or-down vote by both the House and Senate before any new rule can take effect that would have an annual economic impact of $100 million or more.

“We’ll have common ground and common sense,” McCarthy said of the bill.  The bill would almost certainly draw a Democratic filibuster in the Senate. But McCarthy said

Trump understands the need to restrict executive actions and ensure that there are “three co-equal branches.”

He said it. “Let me be quite clear, I will not be recusing myself” - Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, joking about his wife’s nomination for transportation secretary.

Philip Brasher contributed to this report.


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