Grassley talks shutdown, RFS, trade, Trump speech
“The longer the shutdown goes on the more problematic it will become,” Senate Finance Committee Chairman Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, told rural reporters today in a call on a wide range of subjects.
Grassley said he had heard from Iowa farmers that they were upset that they could not file data in order to receive the market facilitation payments that the Trump administration has promised to compensate them for lost sales due to retaliation for President Donald Trump’s tariffs on imported steel and aluminum. Grassley said he urged Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue to extend the deadline for submission of data, and a few hours later Perdue announced that the deadline would be extended for the same period that Farm Service Agency offices have been closed.
Grassley also said he is worried that the shutdown will affect the rulemaking for allowing E15, an ethanol blend, to be sold in the summer. That rulemaking “needs to be completed before the summer driving season,” he said.
Grassley also said he has heard from groups that were expecting rural development grants or loans. On funding running out for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Grassley said he doesn’t think “the entire food stamp program is going to go away,” but he said benefits might be cut for some of the types of beneficiaries that the administration has already proposed cutting.
Grassley, who as finance chairman is now in charge of Senate trade legislation, also made comments on several trade issues.
He said he would meet with European Union Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom on Wednesday and that the proposed U.S.-EU trade pact must include agriculture “if it is going to have a chance of passing Congress.”
Trade agreements have traditionally included agriculture and “this is no different,” Grassley said.
European Union officials have said the pact will not include agriculture, but U.S. officials have said they will insist on it.
Asked if he would talk to Malmstrom about biotechnology, Grassley said he would “go to my closet” and get out bags of corn and soybeans to show her that farmers test moisture content by chewing on the corn and beans and prove to her that he has not been hurt by years of chewing on the products.
Grassley described himself as “a laboratory for the EU to know these are a safe product.”
As finance chairman, Grassley said approval of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada agreement will be No. 1, that he is “waiting and hoping” for trade deals with the European Union and Japan and that he wants to address rural health care and to protect the tax law with a provision that equalized the situation between small business and farmers on rates.
He also said he wants to bring forward a tax extenders bill. He also said he is “encouraged” by what he has read that there will be a deal with China.
On Trump’s proposed border wall, Grassley said there is room for compromise at around $3 billion since Trump wants about $6 billion and Democrats have previously voted for $1.6 billion. He said he does not understand why House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., can call the wall “amoral” when she voted for it in the past.
He also said an immigration compromise could cover issues such as catch and release, doing away with the visa lottery, visa overstays, Kate’s law, e-verify and ending chain migration.
Grassley said in Trump’s speech tonight he will be listening for “a legitimate offer to the Democrats … laying a position on the table,” an emphasis on “the crisis situation” and also an emphais on the “humanitarian crisis on our side of he border and the other (side.)
But on the declaration of a national emergency that would allow Trump to spend money without congressional approval, Grassley said, “I would be pretty defensive of Congress’s power to appropriate money.”
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Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, R-Neb., ranking member on the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, said today he expects to be indicted on allegations he lied to federal investigators about illegal contributions in 2016 from a Lebanese-Nigerian billionaire.