After elections, attention turns to appropriations |

After elections, attention turns to appropriations

With the 2014 elections over and the certainty that the Republicans will take control of the Senate in the next Congress, attention has turned to how the fiscal year 2015 Agricultural appropriations bill will be finished and who will be in charge of the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee in the House and who will serve on that subcommittee.

The current funding resolution expires on December 11.

House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers, R-Ky., has said publicly that he favors an omnibus bill covering all appropriations through Sept. 30, 2015, the end of the fiscal year. That would allow the Republicans to start their control of both chambers with a clean slate.

But one lobbyist with close ties to Republicans said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., is “undecided” about this approach. The alternative might be a 45-day continuing resolution, a congressional aide said.

One Republican congressional aide said that the situation is really up to the Senate Democrats who “have a dilemma” of deciding whether to take an omnibus “with riders they don’t like or rolling the dice” with the Republicans in charge in January.

House and Senate Agriculture appropriations staff have “laid the groundwork” to proceed on Agriculture as part of an omnibus, a congressional aide said.

The House Republicans did not take their Agriculture bill to the floor because it included a provision with a waiver on school lunch rules that proved controversial.

In an omnibus, the House Republicans and the School Nutrition Association are likely to push for some type of relief for schools from the rules under the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act. But the Obama administration and groups such as the American Heart Association are opposed to that.

At the same time, there is also the issue of whether Congress would use the appropriations process to take some kind of action to encourage or force the Agriculture Department to rescind the rule on country-of-origin labeling for red meat to which the World Trade Organization objected.

A range of agribusiness groups and the meat industry fearing trade retaliation from Canada and Mexico favor that form of action, but advocates for labeling and the Obama administration have said the executive branch process of addressing the WTO decision should be allowed to proceed.

President Barack Obama’s announcement Wednesday that he will ask Congress to provide funding to fight Ebola and for authorization to fight the Islamic State group may add to pressure to do an omnibus, a congressional aide said.

Meanwhile, lobbyists are focusing on whether House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Robert Aderholt, R-Ala., may opt to take over the chairmanship of another subcommittee, probably the Commerce-Justice-Science Subcommittee.

Aderholt will rank third on Appropriations “and seniority has its privileges,” a House aide noted. On the other hand, the aide said, Aderholt likes the Agriculture subcommittee.

If Aderholt moves, the new subcommittee chairman might be Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., because Republicans follow full committee seniority rather than service on the subcommittee to determine chairs, said one lobbyist.

–The Hagstom Report

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