Ellyn Ferguson

White House to Tighten Cuba Rules on Travel, Business

President Donald Trump plans to outline Friday a tougher stance with Havana by partially tightening travel and business rules that had been eased under the Obama administration to normalize relations with communist Cuba.

The changes were made with input from Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, a Cuban-American and a harsh critic of the Cuban government. But even senior administration officials admitted in a briefing with reporters Thursday that “You can’t put the genie back into the bottle,” referring to some Obama-era policies that have become popular.

Commodities Agency Gets Cool Reception on Funding Bump Request

The acting chairman of the Commodities Futures Trading Commission is asking for a funding bump above the White House’s fiscal 2018 proposal, a request being declined by Republican agriculture policymakers despite their endorsing the agency’s message of keeping a balance between regulatory enforcement and vibrant futures and derivatives markets.

California’s David Valadao, the No. 2 Republican on the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, brushed aside J. Christopher Giancarlo’s $281.5 million request for fiscal 2018 at a hearing on Thursday. Valadao, said the panel would focus on President Donald Trump’s fiscal 2018 request of $250 million.

Agriculture Nominee Moves Closer to Confirmation Hearing
OGE releases Sonny Perdue’s ethics agreement and financial disclosures

Former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue agreed to extricate himself from a web of interests and restructure two family trusts to remove himself and his wife from active involvement if he wins confirmation as Agriculture secretary, according his disclosure documents at the Office of Government Ethics.

The release of Perdue’s financial disclosure and ethics agreement sets the stage for the Senate Agriculture Committee to schedule a confirmation hearing. The committee said last Friday it had received Perdue’s long awaited official nomination papers, nearly two months after President Donald Trump announced he planned to nominate him. It’s unclear if Perdue has completed a committee questionnaire that is typically part of the confirmation process. 

Cabinet-Level Nominees Play the Waiting Game
Politics, paperwork and holdings slowing things down

Farm groups thought they’d have a new Agriculture secretary by now after a long wait to find out who would be the nominee. But they’re growing anxious again over the delayed confirmation of former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue. 

President Donald Trump has accused Democrats of keeping him from filling his Cabinet, but Perdue’s nomination appears to be on hold because the Senate Agriculture Committee has yet to receive his paperwork.

Ep. 37: NAFTA, Consumer Regulations on Trump's Undo List
The Week Ahead

By Shawn Zeller and Ellyn Ferguson

President Donald Trump is likely to use executive orders to repeal Obama administration regulations and address long-standing concerns about the North American Free Trade Agreement with Mexico and Canada, says CQ Roll Call's Trade reporter Ellyn Ferguson. Amit Narang, with the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen, talks about what his group and others will do to challenge Trump's orders, particularly ones involving financial regulations.

Obama Takes Troubled Trade Portfolio to Asia
Has current political climate made big accords toxic?

President Barack Obama goes to Asia this week promoting a trade agenda that appears imperiled by anti-globalization sentiment at home and abroad that could undo years of negotiations.

Tough comments recently from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement and from two European leaders on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership all but signaled the delay and even possible death of both accords.

McConnell Comment on TPP Ends Obama's Chance to Close Deal

The Senate will not vote on the Trans-Pacific Partnership this year because of “serious flaws” in the agreement, Majority LeaderMitch McConnell told a farm group, effectively ending President Barack Obama’s drive for congressional approval before he leaves office in January.

Obama has touted the 12-nation agreement as an ambitious undertaking that he hoped would be the centerpiece of his trade legacy.

Ep. 17: TPP Trade Pact Drives Wedge in Democratic Party
The Big Story

The 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement has become a thorny issue for presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and her Democratic Party, says CQ Roll Call’s trade reporter Ellyn Ferguson, who explains in detail what’s at stake. Donald Trump’s and Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign rhetoric has emboldened anti-TPP activists, who have turned a usually wonky debate to a national conversation that transcends party politics.

Show Notes:

What's On the Menu for the School Lunch Program?

Several hundred school food managers visited Senate offices this week pushing for floor action on a bipartisan draft child nutrition reauthorization bill that reflects a deal on school meal standards brokered with the White House and a key Senate panel.

Trade Deal May Undercut Efforts to Control Drug Prices

A House committee trained bipartisan outrage last week against two pharmaceutical companies that raised drug prices by as much as 5,000 percent.

The companies, Turing Pharmaceuticals and Valeant Pharmaceuticals, calculated they could raise the prices because the medications, although no longer under exclusive patent, were critical drugs in limited supply for hospital use in treating cancer and complications from HIV/AIDS.

Trade Deal May Undercut Efforts to Control Drug Prices

A House committee trained bipartisan outrage last week against two pharmaceutical companies that raised drug prices by as much as 5,000 percent.

New Report Puts Spotlight on Poverty, Hunger Programs

Politicians seem ready to talk about poverty in America in 2016, at least as demonstrated by a Republican presidential forum on the issue in South Carolina this month.

The key question for the co-chairmen of the bipartisan, congressionally appointed National Commission on Hunger is whether the talk will lead to action on any of the 20 recommendations in the panel’s just-released report. 

New Report Puts Spotlight on Poverty, Hunger Programs

Politicians seem ready to talk about poverty in America in 2016, at least as demonstrated by a Republican presidential forum on the issue in South Carolina this month.

EPA's Search for Middle Ground on Biofuels Prompts Outcry on Renewable Fuel Standards

The Environmental Protection Agency tried to find the middle ground with its final multiyear mandates for commercial use of biofuels, but instead prompted an outcry from supporters and opponents of the federal Renewable Fuel Standard.

EPA officials can expect lawsuits from one group or another after the mandates are published in the Federal Register. They take effect 60 days later. The agency for the first time scales back the overall yearly mandates and sets volumes for several types of renewable fuels below the levels contained in a federal energy law. The final numbers are, however, higher than a draft proposal in May.

EPA's Search for Middle Ground on Biofuels Prompts Outcry on Renewable Fuel Standards

The Environmental Protection Agency tried to find the middle ground with its final multiyear mandates for commercial use of biofuels, but instead prompted an outcry from supporters and opponents of the federal Renewable Fuel Standard.

Aderholt Prays on the Poultry Industry's Dime

House Agriculture Appropriations Chairman Robert B. Aderholt has broken bread for years at international prayer breakfasts, courtesy of trips paid for by a private foundation funded by an Arkansas poultry company.

The Alabama Republican has visited Montenegro, Greece, Albania, Croatia, Colombia, Bolivia, Macedonia, Kosovo, Romania and Guatemala between 2008 and 2015 on the tab of the Fellowship Foundation, which does business as the International Foundation. Total cost: $60,000, according to a blog post by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.

Aderholt Prays on the Poultry Industry's Dime

House Agriculture Appropriations Chairman Robert B. Aderholt has broken bread for years at international prayer breakfasts, courtesy of trips paid for by a private foundation funded by an Arkansas poultry company.  

The Alabama Republican has visited Montenegro, Greece, Albania, Croatia, Colombia, Bolivia, Macedonia, Kosovo, Romania and Guatemala between 2008 and 2015 on the tab of the Fellowship Foundation, which does business as the International Foundation. Total cost: $60,000, according to a blog post by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.  

For EPA Fuel Standard, the Song Remains the Same

The Environmental Protection Agency sought to find a middle ground on May 29 with a package of renewable fuel mandates through 2016, but the agency did little to pacify the two sides that think it is doing too little, or too much to support renewable fuels.

Senate Democrats Put Conditions on Fast-Track Vote

Senate Democrats threatened to block Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s efforts to start debate on a contentious Trade Promotion Authority bill unless the Kentucky Republican guarantees that a customs bill with currency manipulation provisions gets a vote.

Pelosi Calls Emerging Trade Deal a 'Pothole'

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi pushed back against an emerging “fast-track” trade deal at her weekly news conference Thursday, calling the legislation a “pothole” and saying Republicans had a responsibility to work with Democrats to develop a better framework.