An omnibus for livestock

Well, Congress headed out of town in the wee hours of Friday morning (March 23)—probably right around the time you were waking up to do chores—after passing a massive funding bill to keep the federal government’s lights on.

Just before 1 a.m. on March 23, Congress passed a $1.3 trillion bill to fund federal programs, preventing a government shutdown. To avoid a government shutdown, President Donald Trump needed to sign the bill by midnight that same day. After a brief veto threat, he did just that.

However, at the signing ceremony, President Trump warned Congress that he will never sign another omnibus bill again. He said, “To prevent the omnibus situation from ever happening again, I’m calling on Congress to give me a line-item veto for all government spending bills and the Senate must end—they must end—the filibuster rule and get down to work.”

The most recent funding bill, dubbed the omnibus, funds the federal government until the end of the fiscal year, or Sept. 30. The bill boosted funding for the military and domestic programs.

Now if you’re getting déjà vu that we were on the verge of a government shutdown just recently, you’d be right. Just last month, the federal government briefly shut down over disagreements on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals immigration policy, also known as the “dreamers,” whose parents brought them here illegally as children. That’s another column for another time, but the blame for that shutdown fell squarely on the Senate Democratic Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.

On Friday, a couple of Republican senators temporarily held up the process, almost forcing the government to shut down.

Unfortunately—despite Republicans controlling the House of Representatives, the Senate and the White House—the party cannot seem to rein in those lawmakers who want to be as destructive as possible.

Remember Republican Sen. Ted Cruz’s four-month holdup of Bill Northey to be USDA’s under secretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Service? Or Republican Sen. Jeff Flake’s hold up of Gregg Doud to be the chief agricultural negotiator at the U.S. Trade Representative?

Republicans do not need this obstruction from their own party. They get enough from Senate Democrats slow walking the president’s nominees (the Senate has to vet and confirm Cabinet and sub-Cabinet nominees).

However, there is good news for farm country in the omnibus. The Fair Agricultural Reporting Method (appropriately dubbed FARM) Act was included. The bill exempts the Environmental Protection Agency reporting requirements for air emissions from animal waste.

This was a huge victory for livestock producers as the reporting requirements were never meant to be forced on animal agriculture producers.

Several members of the Senate Agriculture Committee introduced the bipartisan legislation, including Chairman Pat Roberts, Deb Fischer, Joe Donnelly and Heidi Heitkamp. In addition, members of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee joined, including Chairman John Barrasso, Mike Rounds, Tom Carper and Chris Coons (not on the Committee).

Editor’s note: Seymour Klierly writes Washington Whispers for the Journal from inside the Beltway.