A Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) treaty was finalized; frustrated conservatives brought the House Speakership of John Boehner to an end and his likely successor withdrew; the BMJ (British Medical Journal) eviscerated the Dietary Goals Advisory Committee’s report for lack of scientific underpinning and the House Agriculture Committee held a Dietary Guidelines hearing; the EPA’s WOTUS rule earned another federal court injunction; franchise owners stormed Washington to protest National Labor Relations Board rulings; and some Republicans joined with Democrats to attempt resurrecting the Export-Import Bank.
The TPP negotiators, after failing to wrap up a final treaty in Hawaii this summer, worked hard to get the deal done in Atlanta. The impending U.S. presidential elections and Canadian elections, plus fear of stalling, were motivation enough to overcome auto parts, biologic drug and dairy roadblocks. Several interim small group negotiating sessions provided the tools to finalize.
Now comes the difficult task of getting Congressional approval.
The general media likes to portray the House speakership events as a chaotic example of Republicans’ inability to govern. Actually, conservatives in the House and many voters in the country see it as the opposite: the Republican leadership in both houses has been too concerned about getting deals done to keep the government running, ignoring the principles voters sent members to Washington to fight for.
Sacrificing the principles of cutting spending, limiting government interference in personal and business life, creating an environment for economic growth and jobs and prioritizing national defense in order not to upset the Democrats or the President has infuriated many. The leadership has not only ignored those folks but called them crazy, reminiscent of President Obama’s labeling them as “bitter clingers.”
New Speaker Paul Ryan will have to promise to overhaul the House process, allowing initiatives from the members up to the leadership rather than top-down marching orders, allowing more debate and more amendments and promising not to punish members by jerking their chairmanships and committee assignments.
Just before the House Agriculture Committee summoned Secretary Tom Vilsack and HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell to answer questions about the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee’s (DGAC) report and the Guidelines, The BMJ -- formerly known as British Medical Journal -- issued a peer-reviewed article severely questioning the scientific underpinning of the committee’s report.
Vilsack and Burwell assured members sustainability would be tossed as outside the Committee’s purview. They also emphasized that the Committee’s recommendations were recommendations, not the final Guidelines themselves. Staff professionals in both agencies would weigh all the input from the committee and from comments before they set the final Guidelines. That seemed to mollify the House Ag committee but it does not comfort me.
Staffers were the people who decided what studies the 2015 report would be based on. The staffers were the people who decided to leave off the list the DGAC could use many recent studies, especially ones on low-carbohydrate diets or ones questioning the emphasis on plant-based diets or questioning the correlation between heart disease or cancer and meat consumption. There are activists with agendas inside these agencies. Defending animal products in the diet from our own USDA has long been a Herculean task.
There is still time to register your concern with the secretaries and/or your congressional representatives.
Good news from the court system was that the Sixth U.S. Circuit Court in Cincinnati slapped an injunction on the EPA’s Waters of the U.S. rule (WATUS). This court made it clear the injunction applied to the U.S., not just the states involved in the lawsuit. The decision held the plaintiffs had a good chance of winning the case on the merits, although there are jurisdictional questions. EPA had been proceeding with implementation in states not named in a previous North Dakota suit issuing an injunction against EPA.
Franchise owners stalked the halls of Congress, protesting the National Labor Relations Board’s ruling against McDonalds, effectively making all parent companies of franchises co-responsible for wage, hire and firing decisions. The move is part of the Board’s efforts to make it easier to unionize fast food workers, but affects all franchised industries.
Invoking a seldom-used maneuver, 42 Republicans joined with Democrats in signing a discharge petition, bypassing House committees to bring a bill to resurrect the Export-Import Bank to the floor. The maneuver actually cedes House control to Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca) for debate. An FDR-era bank intended to provide financing for small companies wishing to export and import goods, the bank now guarantees loans to virtually only large corporations like Boeing and GE. Taxpayers are subsidizing the interest rates and guaranteeing loans. The bill is expected to pass the House but there were no immediate plans for Senate consideration.
Dittmer, a veteran in agricultural policy, writes for the Agribusiness Freedom Fountation. His blog is called Free Market Carnivore