Lawmakers Face Herculean Challenge on USDA, Other Spending Bills

U.S. lawmakers have until January 19th to pass the first batch of annual spending bills, including for USDA—a herculean task, given the huge differences dividing the parties and the House and Senate.

The fight will start in the House, where the USDA-FDA bill has already been defeated once over its proposed ban on a mail-order abortion drug and cuts to some farm and feeding programs. Ranking Rules Committee Democrat Jim McGovern on cuts to the Women, Infants and Children’s feeding program, including its fruit and vegetable benefit, during earlier panel debate.

McGovern, “If this bill were to become law, there would be waiting lists for hundreds of thousands of new moms and very young kids. Let me repeat. Republicans are passing a bill that would create waiting lists for hundreds of thousands of new moms and very young kids. Is this what your ‘Commitment to America’ is all about? I have news for you: America doesn’t want your commitment.”

But this from Republican Andy Harris, Ag Appropriations Chair, “This legislation supports critical Ag research and plant and animal health programs, it invests in rural communities, expands access to broadband and provides nutrition assistance to those in need, and ensures that Americans have access to a safe food and drug supply.”

But it includes a controversial ban on the mail-order drug mifepristone and restrictions on the USDA secretary’s CCC discretionary spending authority. All this, while cutting spending by using $7.5 billion in unspent Inflation Reduction Act funds to boost the bill’s bottom line to an advertised $25 billion.

House Speaker Mike Johnson will have to overcome objections from both Democrats and moderate Republicans who torpedoed the bill in its present form and work out differences with the Senate to avert another shutdown cliff in January.

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