WASHINGTON, Feb. 5, 2017 - Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visits President Trump on Friday as they seek to shore up the trade and security relationship between the countries in the wake of the U.S. withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
On Capitol Hill this week, lawmakers will consider killing a rule finalized in the last weeks of the Obama administration that changes Bureau of Land Management’s planning procedures, and Senate Republicans continue pushing some of Trump’s nominees toward confirmation.
Trump and Abe spoke by phone on Jan. 18, and a White House readout of the call said they committed to deepen the “bilateral trade and investment relationship.”
Many in U.S. agriculture were disappointed in Trump’s decision to pull out of the 12-nation TPP in large part because of concessions Japan had made to lower trade barriers that limit imports of beef, pork and other products.
The House, which has an abbreviated schedule this week due to a Democratic retreat, is slated to vote Tuesday on a resolution of disapproval that would kill the BLM Planning 2.0 rule. The Senate could also consider the measure before the week is out.
The Republican Senate leadership also hopes to make progress on the growing backlog of confirmation debates. The Senate on Monday will resume consideration of Betsy DeVos’ nomination to be Education Secretary and then will move to three more pending nominations, all of them facing Democratic opposition: Jeff Sessions for Attorney General, Tom Price for Secretary of Health and Human Services, and Steven Mnuchin for Treasury Secretary.
The Senate is not expected this week to get to the nomination of Scott Pruitt, President Trump’s pick to run the Environmental Protection Agency. The Environment and Public Works Committee advanced his nomination to the Senate floor last week, 11-0, after Republicans suspended the rules and agreed to hold the vote despite a Democratic boycott.
Democrats argued that Pruitt hasn’t fully responded to their questions and requests for documents.
The BLM rule is one of a series of measures released late in the Obama administration that Republicans are systematically killing though the seldom-used Congressional Review Act. The law allows Congress to hold up-and-down votes on rules within a limited period of time after they’ve been finalized. A similar disapproval resolution to kill the EPA’s “waters of the United States” rule passed the last Congress, but then-President Obama vetoed the measure. The WOTUS rule is no longer eligible for action under the CRA.
The CRA provides a quicker and less cumbersome route to killing rules than having the Trump administration withdraw them under the Administrative Procedures Act, which requires agencies to follow a notice-and-comment process for changing or killing regulations.
Last week, a handful of Democrats in the House, including Collin Peterson of Minnesota and Jim Costa of California, voted with Republicans to kill BLM regulations on methane flaring and EPA restrictions meant to protect streams for coal mining pollution.
The BLM rule targeted this week overhauls the process for writing the agency’s resource management plans, which guide decisions on grazing and mineral development on 250 million acres of Western land. The bureau says it’s trying to speed up the process, which now can take a decade or more, and make it more transparent.
The rule seeks to involve local stakeholders earlier in the process and places an emphasis on landscape-level plans. Ranchers and other critics of the rule say, among other things, that the rule gives too much weight to environmental concerns in planning decisions.
“While it’s true the agency did take some steps to address our concerns in the finished product, it’s simply not far enough, and what we’re left with is not going to be workable for the people in this room,” Ethan Lane, executive director of the Public Lands Council, told Agri-Pulse.
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Conservation groups welcomed the rule. Kate Zimmerman, the National Wildlife Federation’s public lands policy director, said it would “significantly improve opportunities for the public, as well as state and local governments, to weigh in on how our public lands and the important resources they provide should be managed.”
Here’s a list of agriculture- or rural-related events scheduled for this week in Washington and elsewhere:
Monday, Feb. 6
Crop insurance industry annual meeting, through Wednesday, Bonita Springs, Fla.
4 p.m. - The chairman of the House Ways and Means subcommittee on tax policy, Rep. Peter Roskam, R-Ill., speaks at the Heritage Foundation, 214 Massachusetts Ave. NE.
Tuesday, Feb. 7
Crop insurance meeting.
9 a.m. - Center for Strategic and International Studies forum (webcast available) on new report, “Recurring Storms: Food Insecurity, Political Instability, and Conflict,” 1616 Rhode Island Ave. NW.
11 a.m. - House Natural Resources Committees holds organizational meeting, 1324 Longworth.
11 a.m. - House Science, Space and Technology Committee hearing, “Making EPA Great Again,” 2318 Rayburn.
11 a.m. - USDA releases Farm Income Forecast.
Wednesday, Feb. 8
Crop insurance meeting.
10 a.m. - Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing on modernizing infrastructure, 406 Dirksen.
Noon - Environmental Law Institute (ELI) forum, “Environmental Priorities of Congress and the New Administration,” 1100 K St. NW.
Thursday, Feb. 9
Environmental Law Institute offers a two-day course, Environmental Law 2017, (fee charged) through Friday, Washington Plaza Hotel.
8:30 a.m. - USDA releases Weekly Export Sales report.
Noon - ELI forum “Harnessing the Power of Whistleblowers: Combating Wildlife Crime,” 1730 M St. NW.
Friday, Feb. 10
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to visit President Trump.
National Cotton Council annual meeting, through Sunday, Dallas.