Congress heading back to "work."

Published on: 15:26PM Sep 05, 2014

Pro Farmer Extra

- From the Editors of Pro Farmer newsletter -

September 5, 2014

A visceral Congress with more things on its “don’t do” list than “do” list returns this week, with only a few legislative days ahead of November elections that will in large part determine the fate of a post-election, lame-duck session. This could elevate Congress’ inaction to a new level.

Some action on onerous waters of the U.S. rule

The House Rules Committee said it will consider amendments to legislation that would bar the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from issuing its waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule, adding the bill is likely to be brought to the House floor for a vote in September. The bill would prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from “developing, finalizing, adopting, implementing, applying, administering or enforcing” the proposed WOTUS rule or any associated guidance that attempts to clarify the scope of the Clean Water Act.

What about immigration reform?

Forget it. The House won’t touch comprehensive reform ahead of the elections. And while President Barack Obama repeatedly said he would act on this via executive orders if Congress failed to do so, it looks like worried Democratic lawmakers persuaded him to delay his plan until after voters go to the polls.

2014 Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS)

Volume requirements for the 2014 RFS were supposed to be announced last November, but EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy last week again said final requirements would be announced “soon.” (She said the same thing June 20.) Some sources now expect the announcement before the November elections.

McCarthy also said 2014 RFS requirements may top EPA’s initial proposal as U.S. gasoline usage is climbing more than forecast. But she didn’t discuss specific figures. Our sources for months have signaled the corn-based ethanol volume requirement could be at or around 13.6 billion gallons, above the initially proposed 13.01-billion-gallon level, with the biodiesel volume requirement at or around 1.48 billion gallons, up from the initially proposed 1.28 billion gallons. If those are the final levels, many will ask what took so long for this “transparent” administration to announce things.

Election prospects

Based on our recent chats with election-year prognosticators, it’s a safe bet to say Republicans will maintain control of the House. The key unknown is how many more seats the party will pick up, with predictions ranging from 6 to 12. The major unknown is in the Senate. We now see three possibilities: (1 and 2) a 51-49 split, with various scenarios putting either the Republicans or Democrats in “control” of the unwieldy chamber; and (3) a 50/50 split with Vice President Joe Biden breaking any tie votes in the next Congress.

A really lame lame-duck session

Items like a possible retroactive extension to lapsed tax incentives dealing with equipment depreciation and biodiesel could be bumped to 2015 if the fate of the Senate is still unknown following the elections. With the potential for an Orman victory in Kansas, a likely December runoff in Louisiana and a potential January runoff in Georgia, the make-up of the Senate next year could be in limbo for weeks after November. If so, an already tepid Congress would be even more so.


 


Follow Pro Farmer Editorial Director Chip Flory on Twitter: @ChipFlory


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