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Farm Bill Delayed until January, but Outlook Positive

Earlier this week, key members of the farm bill conference committee acknowledged that their work on the bill will not be completed by the Dec. 13 House adjournment date. While this means no formal action will be taken on the farm bill until January, the outlook for reaching a compromise on the bill’s most contentious issues seems positive. Both Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) expressed confidence that the bill could be finalized shortly after members of Congress return from holiday recess.

TPA bill could be considered soon

In other Congressional news this week, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R- Mich.) indicated that lawmakers have made considerable progress in developing a Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) bill and he expects it to be taken up within the first few months of 2014. Camp issued the statement in response to the conclusion of the latest round of Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations in Singapore, and said reauthorization of TPA is essential for a successful conclusion of the TPP talks. While TPA legislation will have considerable bipartisan support, several Congressional leaders have stated that the Obama administration must take a more active role in securing its passage.

Budget agreement passes House, Senate approval expected next week

The bipartisan budget agreement announced earlier this week easily moved through the House of Representatives Thursday, passing on a 332-94 vote. It is expected to win approval in the Senate next week, though news reports suggest that votes are still needed in order to break an anticipated Senate filibuster.

The agreement sets spending levels for two years, which is a significant departure from the recent series of short-term funding bills that required an extension every few months.