Senate Dems, Biden Still Push for Partisan Election Bill | Another Covid Aid Package?

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Vilsack scheduled to appear before House Ag Committee Thursday


Washington Focus


(Note: The Washington, DC area over the weekend received snowfall and freezing rain. Scheduled events and reports this week could be impacted by weather.)


Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) told lawmakers the Senate would forgo a planned recess and remain in session the week of Jan. 17 to debate and vote on two partisan election bills and a major rule change to modify the long-standing filibuster, which centrist Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) have said they do not support.

     House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) on Sunday said election reform bills “may be on life support” on Capitol Hill but are not dead. Asked by co-anchor Jake Tapper on CNN’s State of the Union if he believes the election reform bills currently stalled on Capitol Hill are dead, Clyburn said no, but did suggest that they are in a tenuous state. Clyburn said that he is worried about losing the House in 2022 and “losing this democracy,” saying that is the reason why he is pushing so much for Democrats’ voting rights legislation.

President Joe Biden is expected to soon send lawmakers a Covid-19 supplemental budget request to fund more booster doses, antiviral pills, masks and tests. Democrats may add on targeted Covid aid for some, including restaurants, bars and other businesses continuing to be impacted by the pandemic. This could be added to the spending bill to fund the government beyond the current Feb. 18 deadline. However, Republicans are expected to oppose additional Covid aid at this time.

     Some of the money allocated for businesses in last March’s $1.9 trillion relief package has not yet been used, the Boston Globe reports (link). “Much of that money comes from $350 billion set aside for state and local governments, which recently have been given more flexibility in how they can spend it. Economically hard-hit states … received all of their funding last year, but 30 states only got half. The rest — a total of $105 billion — will be sent this spring. And many states still haven’t spent all the money that they’ve received.”

President Biden will hold a news conference on Wednesday to mark the end of his first year in office, facing reporters as his agenda has stalled and Covid-19 cases are spiking. The question-and-answer session, set for 4 p.m. New York time, will be just his second formal solo press conference at the White House since taking office.

     The president’s approval rating hit a new low of 33% in a Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday, while 53% of Americans surveyed said they disapproved of his job performance. His approval rating has been around 40% in other recent polls, well below the peaks around 53% he experienced in the earliest months of his presidency.

USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack will testify before the House Agriculture Committee on Thursday on the state of the rural economy. The virtual hearing will begin at 10 a.m. ET.

     Topics will or should include:

  • Impact of rising inputs, especially fertilizer
  • Pandemic aid update, including coming signup period for WHIP+ for eligible 2020 and 2021 participants, including livestock and dairy
  • Initial thoughts on a new farm bill
  • Carbon mitigation programs and climate change, including USDA plans to use the Commodity Credit Corp. (CCC) to test ways to develop markets for climate-related commodities and farming practices
  • Reports EPA may alter RFS ethanol mandate for 2022
  • Trade with China, especially involving Phase 1 trade accord
  • Any new trade negotiations ahead; if so, a Biden administration proposal to renewal Trade Promotion Authority (fast track) is needed
  • Covid vaccine mandates and USDA personnel, including advisory panels
  • USDA nominations update
  • Meat processing competition and expanding kill capacity programs  

Energy infrastructure. The House Energy and Commerce Committee's Energy Subcommittee will hold a hearing Wednesday morning on "Securing Our Energy Infrastructure: Legislation to Enhance Pipeline Reliability." It will feature testimony from both Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Chairman Richard Glick (D) and Department of Energy Deputy Secretary David Turk.

     Deputy Transportation Secretary Polly Trottenberg will join Turk to discuss how the new Joint Office of Energy and Transportation will be involved in deploying the $7.5 billion included in November's bipartisan infrastructure law for electric vehicle charging.

Competition and the U.S. food supply. House Judiciary Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law Subcommittee will hold a hearing Wednesday on "Reviving Competition, Part 5: Addressing the Effects of Economic Concentration on America's Food Supply."

U.S. seaports. House Homeland Security Border Security, Facilitation, and Operations Subcommittee hearing takes place Wednesday on "Assessing the State of America's Seaports."

The annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, was supposed to take place this week, but has been deferred because of the pandemic. Instead, world leaders will meet virtually for the Davos Agenda, a week-long event to discuss how to address current global challenges. The meeting's top priority: Climate change.

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court will announce the final batch of cases it will take up for the term. The court held a conference on Friday to vote on which petitions to pick up, and there are several that will be notable if they're chosen, especially the Prop 12 petition from the National Pork Producers Council and Farm Bureau. Several cases ask the Supreme Court to overrule existing precedents, including two cases seeking to invalidate affirmative action programs.

On Wednesday, Americans can begin ordering free at-home Covid-19 tests. Orders for up to four tests per household can be placed at, and tests are expected to ship within seven to 12 days of being ordered.

Financial regulators will speak this week. Acting Comptroller of the Currency Michael Hsu will speak at Goethe-University's Institute for Law and Finance Conference on Data, Digitalization, Decentralized Finance and Central Bank Digital Currencies on Tuesday, while Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Gary Gensler will headline the Exchequer Club meeting on Wednesday.


Economic Reports for the Week

The economic report agenda features updates on housing starts, building permits, existing home sales and the Philadelphia Fed Index. It will be a quiet week for Fed officials with a blackout period in place ahead of the FOMC meeting set for Jan. 25-26. 

Monday, Jan. 17

  • Holiday: The U.S. gov’t and markets are closed in observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.   

Tuesday, Jan. 18

  • National Association of Home Builders releases its Housing Market Index for January. Consensus estimate is for a 83 reading, slightly less than in December. The index is below its record high of 90 from November 2020, but remains elevated historically, as builders continue to be very bullish on the housing market.
  • Federal Reserve Bank of New York releases its Empire State Manufacturing Survey for January. Expectations are for a 19.5 reading, about 12 points below the December data. The index is off its peak from last summer, but manufacturing activity remains strong in the region.
  • Bank of Japan announces its monetary-policy decision. The central bank is widely expected to keep its key short-term interest at negative 0.1%. The BOJ and European Central Bank are bucking a global trend and have said they don’t plan to raise interest rates this year, even as the Federal Reserve is expected to hike the federal-funds rate by as much as one percentage point in 2022.

Wednesday, Jan. 19

  • MBA Mortgage Applications
  • Census Bureau reports new residential construction data for December. Economists forecast a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.65 million housing starts and 1.71 million building permits.

Thursday, Jan. 20

  • Jobless Claims
  • National Association of Realtors reports existing-home sales for December. Economists forecast a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 6.39 million existing homes sold, slightly less than in November. The median existing home sold for a record $353,900 in November, up 13.9% year over year.
  • Philadelphia Fed Mfg.
  • Fed Balance Sheet
  • Money Supply  

Friday, Jan. 21

  • Conference Board releases its Leading Economic Index for December. Consensus estimate is for a 0.8% monthly increase, after a 1.1% rise in November. The Conference Board currently projects a 6% growth rate for fourth-quarter 2021 gross domestic product, and 3.5% for 2022.

Key USDA & international Ag & Energy Reports and Events 

Ag commodity focus is now on South American crop prospects, the demand outlook and geopolitical issues.

Monday, Jan. 17

     Ag reports and events:

  • Holiday: U.S. gov’t and markets are closed in observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.    
  • China 4Q pork output and inventory levels

Energy reports and events:

  • China December output data, including steel & aluminum; coal, gas & power generation; and crude oil & refining

Tuesday, Jan. 18

     Ag reports and events:

  • Export Inspections
  • Feed Grains: Yearbook Tables
  • China’s second batch of December trade data
  • EU weekly grain, oilseed import and export data
  • New Zealand global dairy trade auction
  • Holiday: Malaysia

     Energy reports and events:

  • OPEC monthly oil market report
  • China’s 2nd batch of December trade data, including oil products trade breakdown
  • EIA releases monthly Drilling Productivity Report

Wednesday, Jan. 19

     Ag reports and events:

  • Broiler Hatchery
  • Food Expenditure Series
  • Fruit and Tree Nuts Data
  • Vegetables and Pulses Data
  • Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry Outlook
  • Sugar and Sweeteners Outlook
  • Chickens and Eggs
  • North American Potatoes

     Energy reports and events:

  • API weekly U.S. oil inventory report
  • IEA monthly report
  • Genscape weekly crude inventory report for Europe’s ARA region

Thursday, Jan. 20

     Ag reports and events:

  • Weekly Export Sales (Note: The report is usually delayed until Friday when there is a Monday holiday)
  • Livestock Slaughter
  • China’s third batch of country-wise December trade data
  • Port of Rouen data on French grain exports
  • Malaysia’s Jan. 1-20 palm oil exports

     Energy reports and events:

  • EIA natural gas storage change
  • U.S. weekly ethanol inventories
  • EIA weekly U.S. oil inventory report
  • Russian weekly refinery outage data from ministry
  • Insights Global weekly oil product inventories in Europe’s ARA region

Friday, Jan. 21

     Ag reports and events:

  • CFTC Commitments of Traders report
  • Weekly Export Sales if the report was not released Jan. 20
  • Peanut Prices
  • Cotton Ginnings
  • U.S. Bioenergy Statistics
  • Cattle on Feed
  • Coffee

     Energy reports and events:

  • Baker Hughes weekly U.S. oil/gas rig counts



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