Nov 17, 2021

Daybreak Nov. 17: Top Dem confident on BBB: We’ll ‘get it done’

By: Bill Tomson, Philip Brasher, and Steve Davies

Democratic congressional leaders and the White House are expressing confidence that the House will pass President Biden’s Build Back Better bill ahead of the Thanksgiving break.

“We’re going to get it done this week,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., told reporters Tuesday.

The bill depends for funding on getting a substantial amount of revenue from tighter tax enforcement, and the Congressional Budget Office estimate is expected to be well short of what the White House forecast. But White House spokesman Andrews Bates said that shouldn’t create a problem for the bill’s passage.

A key moderate Democrat — Oregon Rep. Kurt Schrader — told reporters he’s OK if that CBO estimate is less than the White House’s. He said the bill “looks like it’s going to be fully paid for, at least from my standpoint.”

By the way: The American Farm Bureau Federation came out against the bill Tuesday despite the agriculture provisions that have broad support from many other farm groups.

GOP senators call for supply chain hearing in Ag Committee

Concern about supply chain failures and the rise in cost of farm inputs continues to build momentum on Capitol Hill, and now three Republican senators are seeking a hearing in the Senate Agriculture Committee.

GOP Sens. Roger Marshall (Kan.), John Thune (S.D.) and Joni Ernst (Iowa) say they want to know how the Biden administration is planning to sort out the snarls in the supply chain and bring down prices for fertilizers, pesticides and other inputs. And they say they want Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack — a co-chair of the Supply Chain Disruption Task Force — to testify.

“We’ve heard reports that the price of shipping containers importing and exporting our products have increased from roughly $4,000 to $30,000 a container in some instances,” the three senators say in a letter they sent Tuesday to Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow.

Ag lenders report good news on profitability front

Agricultural lenders expect 80% of their borrowers will be profitable in 2021, with 70% of those remaining profitable through next year, according to the latest survey of lenders conducted by the American Bankers Association and the Federal Agricultural Mortgage Corporation.

It’s the first time since the survey started in 2016 that a majority of ag lenders (69.7%) “reported overall farm profitability increased in the prior year,” the groups said. “This was largely due to government support, which lenders estimate accounted for 38% of borrowers’ net income.”

Only 8.9% of lenders reported a decrease in overall profitability, down significantly from 79.2% in 2021. Lenders said inflationary pressure is their top concern.

Litigation over vax mandate for private businesses consolidated in 6th Circuit

The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati will have jurisdiction going forward over nearly three dozen petitions filed in federal appeals courts challenging the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s vaccination mandate for private businesses.

The Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation picked the 6th Circuit randomly Tuesday as the result of a lottery. The 5th Circuit U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has already stayed the mandate after saying it raised serious constitutional questions.

The mandate, which requires employees at companies of 100 or more employees to either get vaccinated or undergo weekly testing, is scheduled to become fully effective Jan. 4.

Biden talks (a little bit) about trade with Xi Jinping

President Joe Biden did talk to Chinese President Xi Jinping about trade and the “phase one” deal in their virtual meeting Monday night, according to a senior White House official – but neither leader dwelled on the subject.

It wasn’t a “particularly dominant part of the conversation,” said the official, who briefed reporters on the three-and-a-half-hour meeting. However, the official did say that Biden underscored “the importance of China fulfilling its ‘phase one’ commitments, and his desire to see real progress on the conversations that (U.S. Trade Representative Katherine) Tai is having with her counterpart, Vice-Premier Liu He.”

China’s pledge to purchase U.S. ag commodities under the “phase one” trade deal ends on Dec. 31.

Rubio announces hold on ambassador to China nominee

The Biden administration may be intent on advancing the U.S.-China dialogue, but Florida GOP Sen. Marco Rubio is trying to complicate matters. The senator put out a press release Tuesday to announce that he has put a hold on the nomination process for Biden’s choice to be the next U.S. ambassador to China.

Rubio did note the long public service career of nominee Nicholas Burns, currently a professor of the practice of diplomacy and international relations at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, and formerly an undersecretary of political affairs at the State Department as well as an ambassador to NATO. But Rubio complained that Burns does not “understand the threat posed by the Chinese Communist Party.”

Daines supports Biden nominee to lead Fish and Wildlife Service

A Republican senator is backing the nomination of Martha Williams to be director of the Fish and Wildlife Service ahead of her confirmation hearing today before the Environment and Public Works Committee.

In a letter to EPW Chairman Tom Carper of Delaware and Ranking Member Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, Montana’s Steve Daines said, “I believe Ms. Williams will bring a pragmatic, balanced approach to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.”

Williams was director of Montana’s Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks from 2017-2020, after a more than 20-year stint as legal counsel.

Williams has been serving since Jan. 20 as principal deputy director of FWS and is designated to exercise the delegable authority of the director.

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