Agriculture

Cruz Escalates Intra-GOP Fight With Grassley Over Biofuels
‘This is about jobs’

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, walks through the Senate subway as he leaves the Capitol on Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2017. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

By calling for price caps on renewable fuel credits, Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz on Wednesday made clear that a wide gulf remains between lawmakers from agricultural states and those from oil patch states over the future of biofuels, even within the GOP. 

His comments also dimmed hopes that Cruz would lift his hold on the confirmation of Bill Northey, an Iowan nominated by President Donald Trump to be undersecretary for Farm Production and Conservation at the Department of Agriculture. That hold has led to rhetorical skirmishes between Cruz and Iowa Republican Sen. Charles E. Grassley.

Spotlight on House After Senate Failure to Pass DACA Fix
White House puts pressure on House Republicans to advance conservative bill

Speaker Paul D. Ryan has said the House will only take up an immigration bill if it has President Donald Trump’s support. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The Senate’s failure to advance immigration legislation last week took some pressure off House Republican leaders whose members wanted to ensure their chamber would offer a conservative counterproposal rather than just accept whatever the Senate produced.

But the White House — blamed by Democrats for killing a bipartisan Senate measure they believe could have cleared a 60-vote threshold without administration interference — is trying to keep the heat on the House.

How Orrin Hatch Found His Twitter Groove
‘He has this incredible sense of humor, he loves self-deprecating humor, he loves age jokes’

Matt Whitlock, left, says the voice of Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch’s Twitter account is the senator himself. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

It’s not easy to create one of the most popular Twitter handles in Congress when you’re speaking in your 83-year-old boss’s voice.

But Matt Whitlock, Sen. Orrin G. Hatch’s communication director, has done just that. The Utah Republican has about 65,000 followers.

Bipartisan Praise, and Questions, About Thad Cochran
Omnibus spending measure, future awaits veteran Mississippi Republican

Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran has bipartisan support and respect, but also faces questions about how much longer he will be in office, even as he begins the task of moving an omnibus spending bill wrapping up the current fiscal year. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

An omnibus bill wrapping up fiscal 2018 spending could serve as a victory lap for Senate Appropriations Chairman Thad Cochran, who continues to battle questions over his health and stamina in the role.

Rumors have swirled quietly for months about the 80-year-old Mississippi Republican’s future. Those whispers became louder last year after Cochran took a prolonged absence from the Senate due to health issues.

House Appropriators Ready to Carve Up Budget Deal
Side deal among leaders would divide spending, and could divide members

House Appropriations member Steve Womack, who is also Budget chairman, said he and his fellow appropriators never like to have their work spelled out for them. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

A side agreement among congressional leaders to allocate some of the new nondefense funding to opioid abuse prevention, infrastructure and several other priorities is complicating the plan to write a fiscal 2018 omnibus.

Even if that weren’t the case, appropriators say they don’t like being micromanaged.

The ICE Man Cometh, Prompting a New Look at E-Verify
After high-profile federal raids, Congress is revisiting an employment verification system

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents serve an employment audit notice at a 7-Eleven convenience store on Jan. 10, 2018, in Los Angeles. (Chris Carlson/AP file photo)

When federal agents arrived at nearly 100 7-Eleven locations across the country last month to check the paperwork of store clerks selling Big Gulps and coffee, it was the clearest sign that President Donald Trump is serious about taking on employers who illegally hire undocumented immigrants.

Twenty-one arrests were made during the Jan. 10 raids at convenience stores in 17 states and the District of Columbia in what was the Trump administration’s strongest action yet targeting employers. Thomas Homan, acting director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said at the time that the raids sent “a strong message” to employers that “ICE will enforce the law, and if you are found to be breaking the law, you will be held accountable.”

Texas Primaries: What to Watch in the First Contests of 2018
March 6 will see several competitive primary races in the Lone Star State

Gina Ortiz Jones is a Democratic candidate in Texas’ 23rd District. (Thomas McKinless/CQ Roll Call file photo)

As the saying goes, everything’s bigger in Texas. That includes congressional primaries.

The March 6 elections will be the first primary contests of 2018, and the initial tests of first-time candidates running for Congress — Democrats competing in newly targeted seats and Republicans vying to replace outgoing GOP lawmakers.

Rural Areas Feeling Left Behind in Race to Expand Broadband
Lawmakers looking at several options to close digital divide

South Dakota Sen. John Thune talks with reporters Thursday after a news conference at the GOP retreat in West Virginia. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Denny Law’s telecommunications company connects phone lines through the plains of western South Dakota and he’s all-in for ending the rural digital divide.

He said President Donald Trump’s promise to level the playing field with a “great, great broadband,” made during a Jan. 8 speech in Nashville, Tennessee, has energized local providers like himself. And, he added, John Thune, the South Dakota Republican who chairs the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, had better take note.

Some 2017 Tax Filers May Lose Key Tax Breaks
Tax ‘extenders’ package remains in limbo as spending talks drag on

Senate Finance Chairman Orrin G. Hatch filed a bill in December to renew most of the expired tax breaks for two years. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

With tax filing season getting underway this week, certain industries and taxpayers are still waiting for Congress to act on a slate of expired tax breaks, left out of last year’s sweeping tax code overhaul and now mired in a sticky debate over spending and immigration.

The result is that affected stakeholders, ranging from homeowners upside down on their mortgages to biodiesel fuel producers, can’t fully share in the $1.5 trillion tax cut’s largesse touted by President Donald Trump in Tuesday night’s State of the Union address as “tremendous relief for the middle class and small businesses.”

No Shortage of Agenda Items for GOP Retreat
Funding, immigration and 2018 among items to discuss

House Majority Whip Steve Scalise and his Republican colleagues will have plenty to discuss at this year’s retreat in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

House and Senate Republicans head to West Virginia on Wednesday for the annual GOP retreat, leaving Washington even as high-profile negotiations on immigration and government funding remain unresolved.

While those topics are expected to come up during the gathering at the Greenbrier resort in White Sulphur Springs, they could take a back seat to other agenda items such as infrastructure, defense and workforce development.