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Rail strike averted

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Legislative Watch: Strong bipartisan votes in House, Senate; get ready for House investigations and oversight; new House Democratic leadership team.

The House of Representatives and the Senate on strong bipartisan votes approved legislation adopting the tentative rail agreement to avert a nation-wide rail strike. If Congress had not acted, the strike was scheduled to take place on Dec. 9.  

On Monday, President Joe Biden called on Congress to take action to avoid a national rail strike. Biden urged Congress to quickly pass legislation to impose a compromise labor agreement that the administration helped broker earlier this year but failed to win support from all of the rail unions.

Biden said in a statement, "Let me be clear: A rail shutdown would devastate our economy. Without freight rail, many U.S. industries would shut down. My economic advisers report that as many as 765,000 Americans — many union workers themselves — could be put out of work in the first two weeks alone. Communities could lose access to chemicals necessary to ensure clean drinking water. Farms and ranches across the country could be unable to feed their livestock."

Four of the twelve rail unions voted against the agreement. It needed the approval of all 12 unions.

Get ready for House investigations and oversight
With Republicans taking control of the House of Representatives, we can expect an increase in oversight hearings of the administration and investigations. House Republicans have said they plan investigations into President Biden, the administration and especially Hunter Biden. There has been mention of possible impeachment hearings against various administration officials.  

House Republican leaders of the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee have already sent letters to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack asking him to justify various programs and funding priorities.

Representative Andy Harris (R-MD), ranking member of the House Agriculture Appropriations subcommittee, and nine other Republican members are asking for information on USDA's Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities pilot program. The members expressed concern that the program was developed without direction from Congress and asked how USDA created the program and evaluated proposals.  

"We are dismayed by the lack of transparency and congressional consultation throughout the development of this process. In no way can $3.5 billion be considered a 'pilot program,' and there must be direct congressional involvement before a program of this magnitude is implemented.
 
"While we are sure there are a number of projects worthy of being funded, this $3.5 billion is largely going to partner organizations rather than going directly to aid farmers or ranchers in this difficult farm economy when many are struggling with rising input costs, drought and an ongoing supply chain crisis," the members said in a letter to Vilsack.

Representative G.T. Thompson (R-PA), incoming chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, plans to hold a number of oversight hearings on various USDA programs and farm bill hearings.

New House Democratic leadership team
The House Democratic Caucus elected Representative Hakeem Jeffries as House Minority Leader and Representative Katherine Clark as House Minority Whip for the 118th Congress.  

Source: P. Scott Shearer, who is solely responsible for the information provided, and wholly owns the information. Informa Business Media and all its subsidiaries are not responsible for any of the content contained in this information asset. The opinions of this writer are not necessarily those of Farm Progress/Informa.

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