By Jon H. Harsch

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

Washington, Jan. 23 – When President Obama delivers his State of the Union address Tuesday evening, highlights will include what he says about job creation, tax reform, deficit reduction, his goal of doubling exports by 2015, and whether he remains fully committed to renewable energy. Attention will also focus on the chamber itself to see how many members cross the aisle to sit in the other party's territory – and in particular whether Tea Party members intermingle with Democrats or hold their ranks.

If the House floor does become homogenized for the address, the immediate result would end having one side of the chamber standing to applaud wildly while the other side sits glum faced. Longer term, the hope is that a more civil atmosphere for this presentation of Obama's plans for the year ahead could lead to more bipartisan civility in debating these plans and implementing whatever compromises emerge.

For those hoping for a more collaborative Congress, it may not be a good sign that hours before the State of the Union, new GOP-chaired House committees will have already started this week's combative hearings. Among the issues coming up this week, the House Ways & Means Committee will consider the three stalled free trade agreements and investigate what it calls “the economic and regulatory burdens imposed by the enactment and implementation of the Patient Protection & Affordable Care Act.” The House Foreign Affairs Committee will focus on the United Nations to examine what it labels “Urgent Problems that Need Congressional Action.”

Also on the House GOP agenda this week: a spending cut bill “to reduce Federal spending and the deficit by terminating taxpayer financing of presidential election campaigns and party conventions” and a House resolution to cut non-security spending back to fiscal 2008 levels.

The Senate will consider rule changes this week which might eliminate secret holds and revise filibuster rules – changes which might give individual senators slightly less power to singlehandedly bring legislative business to a halt.

U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk will be busy this week, meeting with Colombian Vice President Garzón in Washington Monday. Following that meeting and Capitol Hill visits, Garzón may have more to say about progress on the pending U.S./Colombia Free Trade Agreement at the National Press Club Wednesday. Meanwhile, Kirk and USTR staff will jet to Switzerland for Doha Development Agenda negotiations and the World Economic Forum.

Other key events and meetings this week:

Monday, Jan. 24

  • Secretary Vilsack press conference call on Distance Learning Telemedicine loans and grants that enhance health care opportunities for rural residents.

Tuesday, Jan. 25

  • House Agriculture Committee business meeting to consider organizational matters of the Committee on Agriculture for the 112th Congress.

  • House Ways & Means Committee hearing on the Pending Free Trade Agreements with Colombia, Panama, and South Korea and the Creation of U.S. Jobs.

  • House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on The United Nations: Urgent Problems that Need Congressional Action.

  • USDA reports: Monthly Milk Cost of Production, Cotton Ginnings, Poultry Slaughter.

Wednesday, Jan. 26

  • The World Economic Forum begins in Davos, Switzerland.

  • Senate Environment & Public Works Committee hearing on Transportation's Role in Supporting our Economy and Job Creation.

  • Senate Energy Committee hearing on the National Oil Spill Commission Report, with testimony from Commission co-chairs Bob Graham and William Reilly.

  • House Budget Committee Organizational Meeting to consider committee rules for the 112th Congress and the committee’s Oversight Plan for the 112th Congress.

  • House Budget Committee hearing on The Fiscal Consequences of the New Health Care Law.

  • House Ways & Means Committee hearing on the Health Care Law’s Impact on Jobs, Employers, and the Economy.

  • House Oversight & Government Reform Committee hearing on Bailouts and the Foreclosure Crisis: Report of the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program.

  • House Education & the Workforce Committee hearing on State of the American Workforce.

  • House Financial Services hearing on Promoting Economic Recovery and Job Creation: The Road Forward.

  • House Natural Resources Committee hearing on the National Oil Spill Commission Report.

  • Energy Department webinar on Community Wind and Solar projects.

  • USDA reports: Broiler Hatchery.

Thursday, Jan. 27

  • Senate Budget Committee hearing on The Budget and Economic Outlook: Fiscal Years 2011-2021, with testimony from CBO Director Douglas Elmendorf.

  • Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee hearings on the Affordable Care Act, focusing on the impact of health insurance reform on health care consumers.

  • Senate Small Business & Entrepreneurship Committee roundtable on encouraging entrepreneurship in economically disadvantaged, rural and traditionally under-served areas.

  • Biomass Thermal Energy Council and U.S. Forest Service webinar on Biomass Energy, A Policy Outlook: Programs, Legislation and the new Congress.

  • Heritage Foundation development policy forum on “Is the World Bank Sacrificing Economic Growth and Higher Living Standards on the Altar of Radical Environmentalism?”

  • USDA reports: Peanut Stocks and Processing, Vegetables – Ann.

Friday, Jan. 28

  • Secretary Vilsack will open Pheasants Forever National Pheasant Fest 2011 in Omaha where he will make an announcement about the Conservation Reserve Program.

  • USDA reports: Dairy Products Prices, Catfish Production, Cattle, Peanut Prices, Sheep and Goats.

To add your event to our calendar, please e-mail us at:

For other Agri-Pulse news stories, go to: