By Jon H. Harsch

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

Washington, Jan. 2 – Saturday marked the first day of the New Year. Sunday provided another first: the first day of new EPA rules to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from power plants and other major industrial facilities. President Obama returns from his Hawaii vacation Tuesday just in time for another watershed moment – the new Republican majority taking back control of the House when Congress convenes on Wednesday.

With John Boehner (R-OH) replacing Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) as House Speaker and Republicans taking the chairmanships and setting the agendas for House committees, the political climate has changed. In December, Democrats were boasting about setting new records for passing major legislation, including such unexpected lame-duck achievements as repealing Don't Ask Don't Tell to let gays serve openly in the military and passing the START nuclear arms treaty with Russia. In sharp contrast, this first week of the 112th Congress is likely to include the Republicans' first legislative steps to reduce federal spending, reduce the size of government, repeal last year's health-care law, revise last year's financial services reform law, and curb the EPA's regulatory authority.

In one sign of Republican determination to roll back the Obama administration agenda, Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI), who becomes the new chair of the House Energy & Commerce Committee this week, charged in a Wall Street Journal opinion piece last week that the EPA's plan to regulate greenhouse gas emissions “represents an unconstitutional power grab that will kill millions of jobs – unless Congress steps in. . . The best solution is for Congress to overturn the EPA's proposed greenhouse gas regulations outright. If Democrats refuse to join Republicans in doing so, then they should at least join a sensible bipartisan compromise to mandate that the EPA delay its regulations until the courts complete their examination of the agency's endangerment finding and proposed rules.”

Overhanging all congressional action starting this week will be finding agreement on funding the federal government. Republicans pin their hopes on cutting the federal budget back to 2008 levels. Some say they will oppose any extension of the current Continuing Resolution which funds the government only through March 4th and will oppose raising the federal debt limit unless federal spending is cut significantly as part of the deal. Another part of the deal may be a major overhaul of the tax code. Sens. Mark Warner (D-VA) and Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) plan to introduce bipartisan legislation in the Senate to make the changes proposed in December's Simpson-Bowles deficit reduction plan.

Meanwhile, the White House will be busy this week working away on President Obama's State of the Union address to Congress in late January and on a 2012 federal budget proposal which somehow combines cutting the deficit while spurring economic growth and private-sector job creation.

Also this week:

Monday, Jan. 3

  • USDA report, Dairy Products

Wednesday, Jan. 5

  • USDA report, Broiler Hatchery

Friday, Jan. 7

  • USDA reports, Dairy Products Prices, Peanut Prices

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