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GOP debt ceiling bill passes House by narrowest of margins

Legislative Watch: Bill would reduce spending by $4.8 trillion; Office of Environmental Justice; lawmakers seek to bar JBS from government contracting.

Eric Bohl

April 28, 2023

3 Min Read
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After late-night negotiations restored biofuels tax credits to Speaker Kevin McCarthy's (R-Calif.) debt ceiling proposal, the package passed the House of Representatives by a thread, 217-215. While the initial draft of the bill would have repealed 25 clean energy tax credits, including several credits for biofuels, an uproar from Midwest lawmakers led to McCarthy restoring three provisions. The final version retained the biomass-based diesel credit, second-generation biofuels credit and the 45Q carbon sequestration credit. It would still repeal credits for sustainable aviation fuel, or SAF, and the new 45Z carbon-reduction credit.

The House bill would also raise the debt ceiling by $1.5 trillion or suspend it to March, 2024, whichever comes first. It would cap discretionary spending at 2022 levels with a 1% yearly growth limit. It would also act to claw back some unspent COVID-19 aid.

The Congressional Budget Office estimated that the bill would reduce spending by $4.8 trillion over the next 10 years were it to become law. However, the Democrat-controlled Senate has no intention of passing the legislation. McCarthy portrayed the bill as his opening salvo in a negotiation and encouraged President Biden to now come to the table and talk with Republicans to find an agreement.

Biden Executive Order creates Office of Environmental Justice
President Joe Biden signed an Executive Order creating the White House Office of Environmental Justice. This office will work within the Executive Office of the President to coordinate matters of environmental justice across all of government. At the signing ceremony, Biden said, "Every federal agency must take into account environmental and health impacts on communities and work to prevent those negative impacts. … Environmental justice will be the mission of the entire government."

Executive Order 14096 states, "We must advance environmental justice for all by implementing and enforcing the Nation's environmental and civil rights laws, preventing pollution, addressing climate change and its effects, and working to clean up legacy pollution that is harming human health and the environment. Advancing environmental justice will require investing in and supporting culturally vibrant, sustainable and resilient communities in which every person has safe, clean and affordable options for housing, energy and transportation. It is also necessary to prioritize building an equitable, inclusive and sustainable economy that offers economic opportunities, workforce training, and high-quality and well-paying jobs, including union jobs, and facilitating an equitable transition of the workforce as part of a clean energy future. … 

"Communities with environmental justice concerns face entrenched disparities that are often the legacy of racial discrimination and segregation, redlining, exclusionary zoning, and other discriminatory land use decisions or patterns. These decisions and patterns may include the placement of polluting industries, hazardous waste sites, and landfills in locations that cause cumulative impacts to the public health of communities and the routing of highways and other transportation corridors in ways that divide neighborhoods. These remnants of discrimination persist today."

Lawmakers seek to bar JBS from government contracting
Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Representative Jamie Rakin (D-Md.) sent a letter to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack urging him to block Brazilian meatpacker JBS from participating in government contracting based on what they call a "history of criminal conduct." The letter cites over $3.4 billion in fines paid in the past six years by JBS, Pilgrim's Pride, and their parent company, J&F Investimentos, in both the United States and Brazil.

The letter states, "Despite the scale of this figure and J&F's pattern of brazen misconduct, USDA has continued awarding JBS and Pilgrim's Pride government contracts worth over $118 million collectively since their guilty pleas. In 2022 alone, JBS and Pilgrim's Pride contracts were worth $60 million. These contracts continue despite repeated calls to initiate suspension and debarment proceedings against the corporation."

About the Author(s)

Eric Bohl

Eric Bohl is an agricultural policy leader with extensive experience on Capitol Hill. He served six years as Chief of Staff to Congressman Jason Smith (R-MO) and Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler (R-MO), and previously served as Legislative Director to Rep. Hartzler. During that time, he led her work on the House Agriculture Committee and was influential in efforts to craft the 2014 Farm Bill, as well as handling environmental, energy, transportation and infrastructure, and agricultural trade issues.

Eric’s experience starts at the ground level. His family has deep roots in both animal and row-crop farming going back several generations. This understanding of the unique challenges real farmers face brings valuable perspective to help solve clients’ needs. His midwestern values also allow him to build meaningful relationships with people on both sides of the political aisle and find common-sense solutions that transcend partisan lines.

This approach has continued to be the cornerstone of Eric’s career in grassroots advocacy. He served more than five years as Director of Public Affairs and Advocacy for Missouri Farm Bureau. He was a senior member of the organization’s legislative team and led communications and coalition advocacy efforts, including on the 2018 Farm Bill. His writings on agriculture and rural policy have been published in newspapers across the nation. He serves as First Vice President of the St. Louis Agribusiness Club and is a board member of the Agricultural Business Council of Kansas City, two of the nation’s largest and strongest organizations supporting agribusinesses.

Before his career in public policy, Eric was a practicing attorney for nearly five years, focusing on real estate and agricultural law, commercial transactions, and commercial litigation. Eric earned undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Missouri, graduating from both programs with honors, and served as the Managing Editor of the Missouri Law Review.

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