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118th Congress still waiting on House speaker

Legislative Watch: House is at a standstill; Philippines lowers pork tariffs; Stabenow will not seek re-election; USDA Outlook Conference.

P. Scott Shearer

January 6, 2023

3 Min Read
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The 118th Congress began on Tuesday with Democrats controlling the Senate by 51-49 and Republicans controlling the House of Representatives by 222-213. There are seven new Senators and 74 new Representatives. 

The House Republicans continue to try and find enough votes to elect a speaker.  As of Thursday evening, Representative Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) has failed on 11 ballots to be elected speaker. A block of nearly 20 hardline conservative Republicans continue to oppose McCarthy even as he has continued to make concessions to the group. Many of the concessions McCarthy has made will weaken the next speaker.

As the chaos and dysfunction continues in trying to elect a speaker, there are concerns this could be an indication of things to come during the next two years in the House, especially passing a budget and raising the national debt. Another concern is what does this mean for passing a farm bill this year.

This is the first time a speaker has failed on the first ballot since 1923. The longest process for electing a speaker was in 1855, when it took nearly two months and 133 ballots to finally elect a speaker. 

The House is at a standstill until a speaker is elected.  Until then, the House cannot do certain things like swearing in members, adopting rules of the House, naming committee leadership, and making committee assignments.      

This year, House Republicans are planning committee oversight hearings to hold the Biden administration "accountable." These include examination of the Afghanistan withdrawal, administration's COVID-19 response and business dealings of Hunter Biden. 

The Senate was sworn in with little fanfare. Leadership for the 118th Congress consists of  Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Majority Leader; Dick Durbin (D-IL), Majority Whip; Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Minority Leader; and John Thune (R-SD), Majority Whip.

Philippines lowers pork tariffs
Philippine's President Fernand Marcos Jr. signed an executive order to extend the reductions in the Most Favored Nations tariff rates. The rates for imported pork cuts is 15% in-quota (down from 30%) and 25% for out-of-quota (down from 40%) for 2023. 

Stabenow will not seek re-election
Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee, announced she would not seek re-election in 2024. 

Stabenow said in a statement, "For the next two years, I am intensely focused on continuing this important work to improve the lives of Michiganders. This includes leading the passage of the next five-year Farm Bill which determines our nation's food and agriculture policies. It is also key in protecting our land and water and creating jobs in our rural and urban communities."

Stabenow has served either as chair or ranking member of the Senate Agriculture Committee since 2011.

USDA Outlook Conference
"U.S. Agriculture: Seeds of Growth Through Innovation" is the theme of the 2023 USDA Agricultural Outlook Conference which will be held Feb. 23-24 at the Crystal City Gateway Marriott, Arlington, Virginia.

USDA Chief Economist Seth Meyer during the opening session will give USDA's 2023 Agricultural Economic and Foreign Trade Outlook. 

During the conference there will be more than 30 sessions with agricultural leaders and experts who will discuss key issues impacting agriculture. They include U.S. food price outlook, U.S. agriculture trade update, supply chain challenges and solutions, foreign investment in U.S. agriculture, grains and oilseeds outlook, climate-smart practices in agriculture and forestry, livestock and poultry outlook, USDA's action on nutrition Security, and highly pathogenic avian influenza and international trade. 

About the Author(s)

P. Scott Shearer

Vice President, Bockorny Group, Inc.

Scott Shearer is vice president of the Bockorny Group Inc., a leading bipartisan government affairs consulting firm in Washington, D.C. With more than 30 years experience in government and corporate relations in state and national arenas, he is recognized as a leader in agricultural trade issues, having served as co-chairman of the Agricultural Coalition for U.S.-China Trade and co-chairman of the Agricultural Coalition for Trade Promotion Authority. Scott was instrumental in the passage of China Permanent Normal Trade Relations and TPA. He is past chairman of the USDA-USTR Agricultural Technical Advisory Committee for Trade in Animals and Animal Products and was a member of the USAID Food Security Advisory Committee. Prior to joining the Bockorny Group, Scott served as director of national relations for Farmland Industries Inc., as well as USDA’s Deputy Assistant Secretary for Congressional Affairs (1993-96), serving as liaison for the Secretary of Agriculture and the USDA to Congress.

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