Ellyn Ferguson

Mitch McConnell Touting Victory With Hemp Legalization on Farm Bill
Issue is becoming an early plank of the Kentucky Republican’s 2020 re-election bid

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has been promoting industrial hemp language in the farm bill. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s decision to put himself on the farm bill conference committee was insurance that one of his policy priorities — and a key issue for his 2020 re-election campaign — would make it to President Donald Trump’s desk this year.

“At a time when farm income is down and growers are struggling, industrial hemp is a bright spot of agriculture’s future,” McConnell said Tuesday morning. “My provision in the farm bill will not only legalize domestic hemp, but it will also allow state departments of agriculture to be responsible for its oversight.”

Shutdown Fears Abound, Despite Temporary Reprieve
Another deadline looming in appropriations standoff

Senate Transportation-HUD Appropriations Chairwoman Susan Collins, R-Maine, says Transportation-HUD measure not among the “problem child” spending bills. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Congressional aides on both sides of the aisle say they don’t see how the appropriations impasse ends without a partial government shutdown just in time for Christmas Eve.

President Donald Trump signed a continuing resolution into law Friday that would change the expiration date of the stopgap measure enacted before the midterm elections to Dec. 21. But he wasted little time in taking aim at Democratic leaders for “playing political games” on border security funding, even as he prepares to sit down with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer of New York in the Oval Office Tuesday.

Final Farm Bill Would Make Hemp Legal, Other Details Revealed
Lying in state of George H.W. Bush disrupts bill release schedule

Corn grows on a farm on July 13, 2018 near Amana, Iowa. Farmers in Iowa and the rest of the country, who are already faced with decade-low profits, are bracing for the impact a trade war with China may have on their bottom line going forward. (Scott Olson/Getty Images file photo)

The top House Agriculture Democrat says a final farm bill agreement rejects controversial House provisions to tie food stamp benefits to expanded work requirements, greenlights hemp cultivation and tweaks programs important to farmers and ranchers.

The death of former President George H.W. Bush and his lying in state in the Capitol Rotunda disrupted congressional schedules this week, including the release of a final farm bill. Lawmakers have spent weeks negotiating to reconcile the House and Senate versions of the legislation.  

Immigration Experts: Tear Gas Has Been Used at the Border for Years, But Never on Children
Obama administration introduced gas then reformed polices; Trump administration now uses it more than ever

Immigration experts say the tear gassing of a caravan of asylum seekers represents an unprecedented ramp up in the already rough treatment of migrants at the border. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

The use of tear gas by U.S. authorities on asylum-seekers including small children Sunday builds on a legacy of excessive force at the Southern border, but also represents a reversal of reforms made during former President Barack Obama’s second term toward more humane policies, according to data released by U.S. Customs and Border Protection this week and immigrant rights experts.

Reports of parents and children choking as they ran to escape tear gas at the Mexican border, including a photo of a Honduran mother fleeing the toxic clouds of gas with her twin daughters in each hand, have provoked widespread outrage in recent days.

Scalise Appoints Rep. Drew Ferguson as House GOP’s Chief Deputy Whip
Georgia Republican freshman replaces Patrick McHenry who is running for a committee leadership post

Rep. Drew Ferguson, R-Ga., will serve as House Republicans’ chief deputy whip next Congress. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

House Republican Whip Steve Scalise has appointed Georgia GOP Rep. Drew Ferguson to serve as his chief deputy whip for the 116th Congress.

“Drew has proven himself to be a tireless worker, and an invaluable member of my whip team this Congress, helping us secure the votes for major conservative victories like our tax cuts bill,” Scalise said in a Tuesday statement announcing the appointment. 

Forest Fires Add Snag to Getting Farm Bill Passed
House-passed version would change forest management policies that opponents say would ease oversight

A Cal Fire firefighter monitors a burning home as the Camp Fire moves through earlier this month in Magalia, California. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images file photo)

Forestry provisions have emerged as the latest snag in farm bill negotiations, sending the issue to congressional leaders for talks to break the impasse.

The forestry provisions in the House-passed version of the farm bill say the proposed changes to federal forest management policies would prevent forest fires — an issue that is now at the forefront after the deadly California fires. Opponents say the proposed changes would ease federal oversight and safeguards needed to limit logging on public lands that could destroy forests habitats and reduce protections for endangered wildlife.

Farm Aid Payments to City Dwellers Prompt Call for Limits on Program
Study found more than 1,000 recipients had city addresses

The current reauthorization of the farm bill might become a vehicle to tighten eligibility to certain forms of farm aid. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Nearly 1,150 recipients who qualified for aid under a $12 billion Trump administration program to offset foreign tariffs on U.S. farm products maintain city addresses, an interest group found in an initial survey, prompting calls for overhauling the program.

The Environmental Working Group argued Monday that the data should prompt lawmakers working on a pending reauthorization of federal farm and nutrition programs to impose tougher standards to reduce the number of “city slickers” eligible for farm subsidies.

Farm Bill Negotiators Aim to Hash Things Out in Veterans Day Meeting
Republicans lost their bargaining edge with the election, Collin Peterson says

Collin Peterson, D-Minn., who will likely take control of the House Agriculture Committee next year, and Mike Conaway, R-Texas, the current chairman, have locked in their plans for Veterans Day. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The two top House farm bill negotiators plan to meet on a federal holiday Monday to try to find a way forward on a compromise measure that could pass a lame-duck Congress.

Collin C. Peterson, currently the ranking member on the House Agriculture Committee and presumed chairman in the 116th Congress, said he and current Chairman K. Michael Conaway of Texas would meet on Veterans Day to discuss the legislation. A Peterson aide on Friday confirmed the Nov. 12 meeting.

The Devil on Trump’s Shoulder and in the Country’s Ear
What I learned from sitting through Trump’s midterm blitz: his better angels must be pretty discouraged

President Donald Trump’s zigzagging feels a lot like the angel-devil gag in those old cartoons — except not everyone is laughing, Curtis writes. (Al Drago/CQ Roll Call file photo)

OPINION — CHARLOTTE, N.C. — It’s a setup in many cartoons and films of days past: The protagonist is presented with a moral dilemma, and gets conflicting advice from a devil perched on one shoulder and an angel on the other. The behavior of Donald Trump in a presidency filled with choices reminds me of those scenes, though his angel must be downright depressed by now.

The latest appeal to the president’s “better angels” worked for a little while as he reacted to the massacre at a Pittsburgh synagogue, the apparently race-based fatal shootings of two black shoppers in Kentucky and a series of bombs sent to people on his enemies list.

A Democratic Majority Could Milk Trump’s Trade Pact
‘The bar for supporting a new NAFTA will be high,’ says top Democrat on Ways and Means

Rep. Richard Neal, a Ways and Means Committee member since 1993 and now the panel’s top Democrat, voted against NAFTA and says he will scrutinize the proposed replacement. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The Trump administration included provisions in the new trade deal with Canada and Mexico to win Democratic support, but if the midterm elections hand Democrats the majority in either the House or Senate, the path forward for the revised agreement may be more complicated.

President Donald Trump is expected to sign the agreement in principle on Nov. 30 and send implementing legislation to Congress sometime later. Trump also notified Congress on Tuesday that his administration plans to launch trade negotiations with the European Union, Japan and the United Kingdom in 2019.