Agriculture

USDA official to resign, leaving civil rights post vacant
Lawmakers say her managerial style caused discord and discouraged employees from filing complaints

Department of Agriculture sign in Washington. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Corrected 4:50 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 19 | The effort to fill the top Agriculture Department civil rights post got a setback this week with the resignation of Naomi C. Earp, the nominee for the position who has been serving as deputy assistant secretary for civil rights.

Earp, chairwoman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission under President George W. Bush, has been under fire from Rep. Marcia L. Fudge, D-Ohio, chairwoman of the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Nutrition, Oversight and Department Operations.

Trump signs ‘phase one’ China pact, first of two trade milestones this week
Senate to take up NAFTA replacement before impeachment trial begins

President Donald Trump gestures as he speaks during a “Keep America Great” campaign rally in Milwaukee on Tuesday night. (Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images)

Amid the impeachment proceedings on Capitol Hill, President Donald Trump on Wednesday signed the first of two significant milestones on trade — an agreement with China that amounts to a ceasefire in his war with the Asian giant.

Trump is expected to get a second win on the issue later this week, with the Senate expected to approve a revised trade agreement with Canada and Mexico. Aides say Trump plans to trumpet both as part of his reelection sales pitch that he is a good steward of the economy.

South Dakota tribe clears hemp plan but governor opposes industry
South Dakota is one of three states that don’t allow production of industrial hemp

Hemp flower on display at the Tennessee Grown booth at the Southern Hemp Expo in Franklin, Tenn., in September 2019. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The Flandreau Santee Sioux cleared a major hurdle when the Agriculture Department approved its plan for growing industrial hemp on reservation land, but the tribe may face other obstacles in a state where laws still prohibit hemp farming.

Gov. Kristi Noem, a former Republican House member, vetoed legislation in 2019 that would have amended state law to allow South Dakota farmers to grow hemp after Congress legalized the plant and its products in the 2018 farm bill. Federal law had previously treated hemp, like its botanical cousin marijuana, as an illegal substance although hemp has a lower concentration of the psychoactive compound delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC.

At the Races: New year, same politics

By Bridget Bowman, Stephanie Akin and Simone Pathé 

Welcome to At the Races! Each week we’ll bring you news and analysis from the CQ Roll Call team that will keep you informed about the 2020 election. Know someone who’d like to get this newsletter? They can subscribe here.

Senate clears final spending package, wraps for the year
The bills now head to Trump's desk for his signature

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., leaves the Senate chamber in the Capitol after making remarks on the House’s impeachment of President Donald Trump on Thursday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The Senate cleared two spending packages totaling $1.4 trillion Thursday, sending the measures to President Donald Trump ahead of a Friday deadline.

Debate over the massive packages was tucked in between floor speeches about the House's Wednesday vote to impeach Trump — making for a strange mix of bitter partisanship over the impeachment process and broad bipartisan support for a wide-ranging year-end appropriations package.

Meet the Democrats who broke with their party on impeachment
Three Democrats voted against at least one article, but one might soon be a Republican

Minnesota Rep. Collin Peterson opposed both articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Two House Democrats opposed both articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump on Wednesday, while one split his vote on the two articles. A fourth voted “present.”

All three Democrats — one powerful committee chairman and two freshmen — represent districts Trump carried in 2016, but their votes put them at odds with the 28 other Democrats in Trump districts, all of whom voted for both articles of impeachment.

Rules, privacy issues loom for fintech industry in 2020
Advocates foresee sparse congressional activity for 2020

Facebook changed the fintech industry's focus this year when the social media giant announced plans to launch its own cryptocurrency called Libra. (Photo by Chesnot/Getty Images)

The nascent financial technology industry started the year faintly optimistic that the 116th Congress would pass bills in its favor. But as 2019 comes to an end without legislation, the industry isn’t even expecting action in 2020. And for that, they’re feeling relieved, not disappointed.

Facebook Inc.’s midyear announcement that it planned to launch a cryptocurrency, Libra, upended the industry’s focus, tilting the legislative strategy from pressing hard for beneficial bills to staying clear of measures aimed at checking the social media giant’s ambitions to transform commerce.

California water politics complicate House panel’s oversight
Natural Resources chairman wants to investigate Interior secretary’s role in water allocation report that benefited a committee member’s district

California Democratic Rep. Jim Costa represents part of California’s San Joaquin Valley, a drought-prone region where the politics surrounding agricultural and water interests can often trump partisanship. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

House Natural Resources Chairman Raúl M. Grijalva of Arizona wants his committee to give him subpoena authority for multiple possible investigations, but California Democrat Jim Costa may vote against that as the panel considers whether Interior Secretary David Bernhardt improperly influenced a decision to send more water to his district.

Costa told CQ Roll Call he’s not sure he can support giving Grijalva such unlimited subpoena authority. Costa said he discussed the matter with the chairman, who plans a committee vote on the question in January, and said he’d support a “specific subpoena” in the panel’s current investigation into the Bureau of Land Management headquarters relocation. 

Impeachment costing Democrats a House member as Van Drew plans party switch
New Jersey freshman met with Trump and plans to vote against impeachment next week

New Jersey Rep. Jeff Van Drew, who cast one of two Democratic votes against launching an impeachment investigation and plans to vote against it again next week, was telling staff he would jump to the Republican Party after meeting with President Donald Trump. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

New Jersey Rep. Jeff Van Drew, whose election to a GOP-held district last fall helped Democrats flip the House, plans to switch parties after meeting with President Donald Trump at the White House on Friday, according to multiple Garden State sources.

Members of his party were already wishing him good riddance.

Trade deal sparks divisions in K Street
Phramaceutical lobby says changes put 'politics over patients'

K Street has widely welcomed the revamped U.S. trade pact with Canada and Mexico, but some sectors have blasted changes that congressional Democrats negotiated with the administration. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

One of K Street’s top priorities, a revamped U.S. trade pact with Canada and Mexico, took a major step forward Tuesday, but not all sectors embraced the deal — potentially pitting big-spending organizations against one another.

Odd allies, including the labor group AFL-CIO and the business lobby U.S. Chamber of Commerce, offered support for a redo of the North American Free Trade Agreement, something that President Donald Trump initiated after pledging on the 2016 campaign trail he would replace the 1994 deal.