Congress returns, Ag. bills hang in balance

Congress Back to Work Next Week; Facing Health Care, Budget

January 15, 2010 Bookmark and Share

Congress will be back to work in earnest next week after Martin Luther King, Jr. day on Monday to face a host of issues lacking simple solutions.

The House of Representatives was technically in session this week and did take votes on three resolutions and a bill to name a post office. The Senate remained out of session, to return Tuesday.

Upon returning, the Senate is scheduled to immediately take up a bill to raise the nation’s debt limit. Congress approved an extension of the debt limit before the holidays, but the $290 billion increase is estimated to last only until February. A number of amendments to debt legislation are expected, meaning debate could extend into February as well.

Congressional Democrats and the Obama Administration continued talks this week toward a compromise they hope will help avoid a formal conference of pending health care legislation. News reports indicate Leadership would like to have the bill done by the end of the month, but no compromise has yet been inked. The effort to pass a health care bill consumed much of the latter half of 2009.

Importantly to agriculture, the Obama Administration’s FY2011 budget draft is expected out on Feb.1. The FY2010 Obama Administration budget proposed deep cuts to farm safety net programs and were resoundly rejected by Members of Congress.

The country’s fiscal situation has only become more tenuous since last year, however, and there are rumors of not only budget cuts but a possible budget reconciliation process to gain savings from programs.

Also, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) gave indication this week that his chamber will attempt to take up energy and climate change legislation this spring, which is likely to prove contentious and time-consuming.

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