|115th Congress Sworn In and Back at Work
This week Members of the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate returned to Washington, DC to begin the 115th session of Congress. On Tuesday, all House Members were sworn in by House Speaker Paul Ryan and newly elected Senators were sworn in by the President of the Senate, Vice President Joe Biden. Committee assignments for the House and Senate Committees are also being announced, with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announcing Senate Republican Committee Members. Senate Democrats have also recieved their assignments, with Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer releasing this list. Committee assignments are also being made in the House, with details slowing being released, but no final membership lists available at this time.
The House and Senate are also proceeding to legislative issues, working on regulatory reform, health care and the budget. The Senate is debating a fiscal year 2017 budget proposal that includes a health care reserve fund. The House of Representatives is expected to consider several regulatory bills including the Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny Act of 2017 (REINS) and the Midnight Rules Relief Act of 2017.
As the 115th Congress began its work, President-Elect Trump continued to name his picks for several important cabinet positions. However, despite continued speculation about the timing and the selection, no nominee for Secretary of Agriculture has been named yet. Earlier this week, Robert Lighthizer was announced as the nominee for U.S. Trade Representative (USTR). Lighthizer was previously the Deputy USTR under President Ronald Reagan and he also served as a senior staffer to former Senator Bob Dole (R-KS). In addition to Lighthizer, President-Elect Trump has also named several other nominees for positions that will have significant implications for agriculture, including Scott Pruitt for Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Pruitt is currently Oklahoma’s attorney general. He’s also named Elaine Chao, the former Secretary of Labor under President George W. Bush, as his nominee for Secretary of Transportation. Rex Tillerson, the chairman and CEO of ExxonMobil, has been named as the nominee for Secretary of State; the U.S. Agency for International Development, which has jurisdiction over food aid program, is a part of the State Department, though the agency is managed by an administrator.
Congress is expected to begin holding nomination hearings next week on several of nominees, and we’re expecting that the Senate Agriculture Committee will quickly take up an Agriculture Secretary nominee once that individual named.
From the National Association of Wheat Growers staff, we would like to wish you a very happy New Year! 2017 promises many important policy implications for agriculture, particularly with Congressional confirmation hearings of Agriculture Department nominees as well as hearings to start drafting a new Farm Bill. To kick off the year, NAWG and U.S. Wheat Associates will hold our annual Wheat Industry Winter Conference from January 30th – February 2nd in Washington, D.C. During the conference, our policy committees will have important discussions to establish NAWG’s Farm Bill priorities while NAWG and U.S. Wheat’s Joint Trade and Biotechnology committee will also meet to discuss priorities for the upcoming year. We have prepared an exciting slate of speakers and agenda topics for the Joint NAWG/USW board meeting as well as our individual board meetings.. As we have done in the past, we will dedicate one day of our conference to educating new Members of Congress about the economic conditions in wheat country and to advocate for our policy priorities to our day of Hill visits.
If you have not yet made plans to attend, there is still time to register! The NAWG hotel accommodation block price of $189 a night will still be available until tomorrow, Friday, January 6th. For more information on the NAWG meeting schedule at the Wheat Industry Wheat Conference, visit our website here.
Source: National Association of Wheat Growers