By Jon H. Harsch

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

Washington, Nov. 21 – The nation's capitol is virtually shut down this Thanksgiving week, with Congress taking the week off and everyone else holding their breath. There had been a glimmer of hope that the first week of the lame duck session would include at least some signs of congressional willingness to try out bipartisanship for a change. President Obama's invitation to both Republican and Democratic party leaders to join him at the White House last Thursday to reach bipartisan agreement on a productive legislative agenda for the lame duck sounded particularly promising.

As last week turned out, however, not only did the Republicans postpone the White House meeting until Dec. 2 due to “scheduling conflicts,” but it also became clear the Republican leadership is treading very warily. This caution is certainly understandable. The midterm elections significantly expanded the ranks of the Tea Party Caucus with newly elected members of Congress like Tim Scott (R-SC) in no mood to support raising the federal debt ceiling next year – since they campaigned loudly and successfully against just that sort of “irresponsible” congressional “budget-busting extravagance.”

It remains possible that last week's initial Senate action on long-stalled food safety legislation and paying compensation to minority farmers both will lead to successful resolutions in December. But it's also possible that despite strong bipartisan support for both measures, partisanship – and Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) – once again will prevail.

Even more doubt surrounds the administration's priority of having the Senate approve the new START nuclear arms reduction agreement with Russia. Doubt exists despite solid support from the U.S. military, former Republican policy makers like Henry Kissinger, and from Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN). Doubt exists because Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) opposes START, because Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) back Kyl, and because the only way for Democrats to get the treaty approved is to find at least nine Republican senators willing to break party ranks to vote for the treaty which requires 67 votes for passage.

Similarly, Republicans sound adamantly determined to extend the expiring Bush tax cuts for all American, while at least the Democratic leadership remains committed to extending the cuts for 98% of Americans – but not for the wealthiest 2% of families earning over $250,000 a year. If some middle ground isn't found by Dec. 31st, taxes will go up for all Americans in January. Trouble will come even sooner if Congress can't pass at least a short term continuing resolution by the first week of December to keep the federal government funded.

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

  • Monday, November 22, Cotton and Wool Yearbook Data tables, Catfish Feed Deliveries, Chickens and Eggs, Cold Storage, Crop Progress

  • Tuesday, November 23, Weather-Crop Summary

  • Wednesday November 24, Cotton Ginnings, Poultry Slaughter, Broiler Hatchery

  • Thursday, November 25, Have a great Thanksgiving Day!

  • Friday, November 26, Livestock Slaughter, Dairy Products Prices, Peanut Prices

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