Washington Insider -- Wednesday

Working to Avoid Another Congressional Shutdown

Here’s a quick monitor of Washington farm and trade policy issues from DTN’s well-placed observer.

Farmer Payments Continue to Add Up Via MFP

As USDA starts issuing the second round of payments under the 2019 Market Facilitation Program (MFP 2) this week, county FSA offices have been directed to prioritize processing the payments and wrap up that exercise by November 22. USDA said in a release the payments would go out from November 18-28.

As the second round of payments starts rolling, the payouts thus far under MFP 2 total $6.899 billion. That includes $6.58 billion for non-specialty crops, $69.7 million for specialty crops, and $252 million for livestock.

Midwest states and Texas lead the top states in terms of dollars received under the MFP 2 effort so far.

The second round of payments is expected to total around $3.6 billion.

Global Trade Is Set To Stay Weak As 2019 Draws To A Close

The World Trade Organization's trade barometer shows some stabilization for the global flow of goods, albeit at low levels.

The WTO's Goods Trade Barometer recorded signs of a pickup in export orders, container shipping and automobile shipments, offset by weakness in airfreight, and shipments of raw materials and electronic components.

This signals international trade is likely to end the year having risen at the slowest pace since 2009.

Trade flows have been weakened by several developments, including the U.S.-China trade war and a slowdown in the global automobile industry.

Washington Insider: Working to Avoid Another Congressional Shutdown

News from the Congress this week includes a Bloomberg article that focused on efforts to avoid another Congressional shutdown. The report said that House Democrats on Monday released a four-week spending bill negotiated with Republicans to avert at least temporarily a federal government shutdown on Friday.

The measure, which would extend funding through Dec. 20, would also keep the Export-Import Bank open through that date and would allow the Census Bureau to spend money at a higher rate to prepare for the 2020 head count, prevent an automatic cut to highway funding next year and provide the military with a 3.1% pay increase. The House announced plans to vote on the bill early this week, according to House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said that Republican-controlled chamber will also vote on the measure this week. Current funding runs out at the end of the day Thursday.

However, in spite of the high level of political tension just now, it appears that almost nobody wants another shutdown. For example, the White House has indicated that President Donald Trump is ready to sign the measure, McConnell said.

Elements of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act set to expire on Dec. 15 would be extended through March 15, 2020 under the proposal. The provisions allow expanded authority to wiretap terrorism suspects and to examine business records related to terrorism investigations.

In addition, Senator Rand Paul, R-Ky., who opposes the FISA extension and single-handedly triggered a brief shutdown in the past, said Monday he doesn’t expect to block passage of the measure this week--although he hasn’t made a final decision.

The bill would extend funding for community health centers through Dec. 20 and increase funding to combat Ebola in Africa. It would also provide a payment to the widow of the late Maryland Representative Elijah Cummings, a standard practice.

The short-term spending measure is needed because Congress has failed to agree on any of the 12 annual spending bills needed to fund government agencies for the fiscal year that began Oct. 1.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin agreed in July on a $1.3 trillion budget cap for fiscal 2020, raising hopes that the 12 spending bills could be enacted quickly.

Instead, disputes over President Trump’s border wall have hampered the appropriations committees’ ability to set top spending levels for each of the 12 bills under the overall cap. The administration budget asked for $9 billion in new wall funding and Senate Republicans have proposed providing $5 billion, while House Democrats have vowed to provide no new money.

The two parties are also arguing over whether to replenish military accounts that the president raided earlier this year to fund the wall, a move that has been challenged in court and which Democrats argue was unconstitutional.

Pelosi and Mnuchin met last week with Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard Shelby, R-Ala., and House Appropriations Chairwoman Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., to try to break the impasse. Afterward, Lowey said the group is aiming for a deal on top spending levels by the end of this week, but talks have made little headway.

The White House has said the president would be willing to sign a stopgap spending bill as long as it doesn’t hinder the president’s executive authorities, including the ability to spend the transferred wall money.

So, we will see. Most of the Washington tea-leaf readers are being extremely cautious just now even though it appears that few, if any, are actively pushing for another shutdown fight. Still, these are certainly tense times and even the development of the annual budget should be watched closely as it proceeds, Washington Insider believes.

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