House passes measure to fund gov’t through Wednesday
The House today by voice vote followed the Senate in passing a continuing resolution funding the government through Wednesday.
The measure now goes to President Barack Obama, who is expected to sign it before the current funding for the government expires at midnight tonight.
Formally, the House concurred in the Senate amendments and passed H.R. 2250 – Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2016 (Short-Term Continuing Resolution).
The House also passed the conference report on H.R. 644, the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act.
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., announced that the first votes of the week in the House will be at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday.
Members and lobbyists assume that Congress will finish the fiscal year 2016 omnibus appropriations bill by Wednesday, but House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., refused in a news conference on Thursday to set a deadline. The House is scheduled to adjourn for the holidays next Friday.
Meanwhile, agricultural lobbyists are trying to figure out what is happening with the agriculture provisions pending in the omnibus.
At the top of the agenda is a measure to make changes to the country-of-origin labeling law for beef and pork, following a World Trade Organization decision that Canada and Mexico have the right to impose retaliatory tariffs on $1.01 billion in U.S. goods because the U.S. labeling program leads to discrimination against Canadian and Mexican cattle and hog producers. U.S. slaughterhouses have declined to take animals from north and south of the border – or paid less for them – on the grounds that they must segregate them in order to comply with the labeling law.
A wide range of farm and business groups have called for full repeal while the National Farmers Union and the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association are still holding out for a voluntary labeling program for beef that would be overseen by the government. Canada and Mexico have said that only a repeal will satisfy them.
The House has already passed a bill that would repeal COOL not only for beef and pork but for ground meat and chicken.
One lobbyist said late Thursday that there is no COOL measure in the bill, while another said that the most likely legislation would repeal the beef and pork provisions but not the ones for ground meat or chicken because they were not part of the WTO decision. If that happens, each side in the COOL debate could claim partial victory. But the National Chicken Council has called for repeal of the chicken labeling.
On the question of whether Congress will pass a law preempting state labels of genetically modified foods, Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., has said that she does not intend to deal with that issue until January, but the Coalition for Safe Affordable Food, which favors a ban on state labeling laws, announced today that it has made a “significant broadcast and cable TV advertising placement” in the Washington, D.C., media market for the coming days.
If the ban can’t be passed, anti-labeling advocates have privately also urged Congress to pass a short-term ban on state labeling laws.
The tax extenders important to agriculture are expected to be in the bill or in a stand-alone bill, but it is still unclear whether they will be permanent, which the Senate has proposed, or will be extended for only two years, as the House wants, a key Senate source said. The proposal to restrict the Renewable Fuel Standard is unlikely to be included, the source added.
Meanwhile, ag lobbyists are also speculating about the date on which the new dietary guidelines will be announced by the Agriculture Department and the Health and Human Services Department.
On Thursday, there was a rumor that the guidelines would be announced today, but that has not happened. There is also speculation that the guidelines will be released before the omnibus appropriations bill passes so that they would not be affected by any provisions in that bill and another rumor that USDA and HHS have set December 17 as a release date.
A USDA spokesman would say only that the new dietary guidelines will be released “this year,” which would fulfill an Obama administration commitment on the release date.
–The Hagstrom Report
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