Congressional Agenda

By former USDA Secretary John R. Block.

Last week, I attended the beautiful service at the National Cathedral for our 41st President George H.W. Bush.  On the radio, I talked about the George Bush that I knew.  This week, we will move on.  Here is where we are right now.

We are more than two months into our new fiscal year and 30% of our federal government agencies have only temporary funding until December 21st.  70% of our government operations, including Defense and welfare programs are funded.  However, the Justice Department, Homeland Security, Transportation, and Agriculture are not funded after December 21, and will be shut down if the Congress fails to act.  There are a number of political differences concerning what those bills should include.  President Trump has said that he might veto the legislation if it doesn’t include $5 billion for a border wall.

The House bill provides for the full $5 billion, but the Senate bill has only $1.6 billion, and that money can only be used for security – no wall.  Those two bills will have to be negotiated.  Find some middle ground.  Then the question is if President Trump will sign, or do we see a partial shut-down of our government over Christmas?

Another subject fighting the ticking clock – we don’t have a farm bill.  The last bill expired on October 1 and the Congress has not passed a new bill.  The differences between the House and Senate have been ironed out.  Pass our farm bill this week! 

Some positive news – the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement has been signed by each country.  However, the Agreement must now be confirmed by the legislators.  That may not be so simple.  There are some Democrats that don’t want President Trump to get a victory on this.  I still believe we can get it done.

A big surprise that may hurt our chances of negotiating a positive trade deal with China came out of nowhere.  Well – it came out of Canada where their government, at our request, arrested the Chief Financial Officer of a powerful Chinese technology company.  I guess that company was on our list for stealing technology and improper trade deals.  This new development could result in a huge Chinese backlash against the U.S – just when we were hoping for an end to the trade war.

Stay tuned – we have 90 days to make some progress.

John Block was Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture from 1981-1985, where he played a key role in the development of the 1985 Farm Bill.  If you would like to review his radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on-line to www.johnblockreports.com.

Categories: USDA

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