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GOP looks to tax bill

by Philip Brasher

Congressional Republicans will set the stage this week to begin work on a $1.5 trillion tax-cut bill, while the Senate is poised to approve two more undersecretaries for the Agriculture Department.

The House is expected to approve a Senate-passed fiscal 2018 budget resolution this week that will allow use of the budget reconciliation process to move a tax bill through the Senate without Democratic support. The Senate-passed budget, unlike a version the House approved earlier this month, was good news for the next farm bill in that it would require no cuts in agriculture spending.

House Agriculture Chairman Mike Conaway, R-Texas, praised House and Senate GOP leaders “for producing a final budget that preserves our ability to craft an effective, efficient farm bill while also allowing us to move forward with efforts to simplify the tax code.”

Early this week, the Senate is expected to approve the nominations of Iowa Agriculture Secretary Bill Northey and Nebraska Agriculture Director Greg Ibach as USDA undersecretaries.

The Senate Agriculture Committee approved both nominations on Thursday but added some confusion to Northey’s new job by challenging Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue’s ability to install him in a reorganized position without approval from Congress.

Northey is being confirmed as undersecretary for farm and foreign agricultural services, a position that is being reworked. Perdue intends for him to serve as undersecretary for farm production and conservation, which would put Northey over the Natural Resources Conservation Service as well as the Farm Service Agency and the Risk Management Agency. The Foreign Agricultural Service, meanwhile, is being moved under the new undersecretary for trade, Ted McKinney.

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