Democrats Put Farm Bill Talks on Hold
Minority party says it can’t negotiate until it sees text and other info

House Agriculture ranking Democrat Collin C. Peterson says his party is done talking about the farm bill until the majority Republicans start sharing information. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

For those tracking the farm bill, the top question this week is whether the House Agriculture Committee chairman and ranking member can reopen talks that stalled last week, after Democrats balked at possible cuts to the food stamp program.

Rep. Collin C. Peterson, the top committee Democrat, said Thursday he would heed his colleagues’ request that he stop negotiations until Chairman K. Michael Conaway gives members the text of the proposed farm bill, along with Congressional Budget Office cost estimates and impact assessments.

Opinion: Putting the ‘N’ in SNAP Should Be a Farm Bill Priority
Program should be strengthened to promote nutrition among SNAP recipients

Among the recommendations of the Bipartisan Policy Center’s SNAP Task Force is continuing incentives for recipients to consume fresh fruits and vegetables (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call file photo)

As Congress begins its deliberations on this year’s farm bill, it’s time to pay more attention to the “N” in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP.

Launched as a pilot program by President John F. Kennedy and expanded nationwide by President Richard Nixon, the food stamps program — now SNAP — has enjoyed bipartisan support over its nearly 60-year history. From its initial goals of supporting farm incomes and ensuring low-income families did not face hunger, it has evolved into an effective anti-poverty program. That evolution continues today with a focus on nutrition.

Conservative Groups Warn Tariffs Could Cost Republicans
Trump proposal exposes rift between White House and usual allies

President Donald Trump, here at the White House on Tuesday with Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven, has stirred action among conservative groups, who are both privately and publicly lobbying for a reversal of his plan to levy new steel and aluminum tariffs. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

With primaries underway, conservative groups are stepping up their campaign against President Donald Trump’s controversial proposal to levy new steel and aluminum tariffs — warning that it could cause political peril for Republicans.

“We’re deeply concerned. We’ve made it clear to the administration that imposing tariffs is an enormous mistake,” said Tim Phillips, who runs Americans for Prosperity, a conservative group funded in part by billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch. “It will undercut their political chances in what’s going to be a challenging election year.”

Mississippi’s Thad Cochran Resigning From Senate in April
Longtime Republican senator cites his health as “ongoing challenge”

Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran will not complete his seventh term due to health reasons. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Updated 6:28 p.m. | Senate Appropriations Chairman Thad Cochran announced Monday he will resign from the chamber effective April 1, giving way to a special election in November. 

“I regret my health has become an ongoing challenge,” the Mississippi Republican said in a statement. 

Trump Attacks Canada Over ‘Highly Restrictive’ Trade Tactics
President: Relief from coming tariffs depends on outcome of NAFTA talks

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, left, and President Donald Trump pose for photographs at the White House in October. The United States, Canada and Mexico are currently engaged in renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images file photo)

The only way for coming steel and aluminum tariffs on Canadian goods to be waived is if the North American Free Trade Agreement is rewritten, President Donald Trump said Monday.

The Trump administration is slated this week to implement tariffs on all steel and aluminum imported into the country above the objections of close U.S. allies, economists, national security experts and even Republican lawmakers. On Monday morning, the president went after one of those allies, criticizing America’s northern neighbor as a trade conflict between Washington and Ottawa nears.

GOP Reaction to Trump Tariffs is Fast, Furious and Negative
Republicans fret about retaliatory action, effect on agricultural trade

Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, R-Utah, among the president’s strongest allies in the Senate, warned that imposing tariffs was akin to a tax hike. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Senate Republicans are calling for changes to the seldom-employed section of U.S. trade law that the Trump administration used to unilaterally impose steep new tariffs on steel and aluminum imports.

The conversations are in the preliminary stages, but build upon discussions GOP members have had for weeks regarding concerns over the White House’s trade policy.

Renewable Fuel Foes and Backers to Meet Again at White House

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

After failing to reach agreement Tuesday at a White House meeting of oil and corn state lawmakers as well as administration officials on possible changes to the nation’s renewable fuels program, lawmakers and President Donald Trump say they’ll try again as early as this week.

Iowa Republican Sen. Charles E. Grassley, a vocal defender of the biofuels industry, said following the meeting that “no win-win” situation was presented as promised by participants such as Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who opposes the program in its current form.

Wealth of Congress: 14 Vulnerable Incumbents Are Worth at Least $1 Million
Only one of them has spent money on his own campaign so far this cycle

Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill is the wealthiest member of Congress considered vulnerable for re-election this fall. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Fourteen vulnerable lawmakers were worth at least $1 million at the start of this Congress. These include House incumbents and senators whose November re-election races are rated either Toss-up, Tilts or Leans by Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales.

Personal money isn’t always advantageous in a tough campaign, but it can be helpful. Just one of these members has donated or loaned money to their campaign so far this cycle.

Cruz Escalates Intra-GOP Fight With Grassley Over Biofuels
‘This is about jobs’

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, walks through the Senate subway as he leaves the Capitol on Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2017. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

By calling for price caps on renewable fuel credits, Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz on Wednesday made clear that a wide gulf remains between lawmakers from agricultural states and those from oil patch states over the future of biofuels, even within the GOP. 

His comments also dimmed hopes that Cruz would lift his hold on the confirmation of Bill Northey, an Iowan nominated by President Donald Trump to be undersecretary for Farm Production and Conservation at the Department of Agriculture. That hold has led to rhetorical skirmishes between Cruz and Iowa Republican Sen. Charles E. Grassley.

Spotlight on House After Senate Failure to Pass DACA Fix
White House puts pressure on House Republicans to advance conservative bill

Speaker Paul D. Ryan has said the House will only take up an immigration bill if it has President Donald Trump’s support. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The Senate’s failure to advance immigration legislation last week took some pressure off House Republican leaders whose members wanted to ensure their chamber would offer a conservative counterproposal rather than just accept whatever the Senate produced.

But the White House — blamed by Democrats for killing a bipartisan Senate measure they believe could have cleared a 60-vote threshold without administration interference — is trying to keep the heat on the House.