Grain Bins


Ears in Washington: December

Posted on December 11, 2023
Ears In Washington DC 002

The Ins and Outs of Washington for 2023

By Brooke S. Appleton

How is it possible that we’re approaching the end of 2023? The year has flown by. But a lot has happened over the year, and it’s important to take time to reflect on the changes we’ve seen in the nation’s capital city during that time.

And that leads us to our annual Ins & Outs list, our fun but also serious end-of-the-year list of what is en vogue and what’s passé.

With no further ado, here is the list…


The House of Thin Margins
– As I write this column, the House has 221 Republicans and 213 Democrats. One vacancy was recently created when former Rep. George Santos (R-NY) was ousted after an ignominious and short tenure in the lower chamber. The small margins have pitted the agendas of more moderate Republicans against those of members of the conservative Freedom Caucus. The intensity of the fractured House reached fever pitch in October when then-Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) was ousted, leading to the speakership of Rep. Mike Johnson (R-La.). (The former speaker has since announced that he will retire from Congress in January.) While Speaker Johnson is enjoying somewhat of a grace period, Speaker Johnson is certain to face the same challenges and threats as his predecessor as he navigates a divided caucus with little room for error.

The Laddered Approach to Government Funding (AKA the Step-Stool Approach) – Congress has long struggled to pass the 12 bills that fund the federal government by the October 1 deadline. Lately, Congress has been wrapping these bills into one omnibus package that is typically passed by Christmas time. But a new speaker brings a new approach. This year, Speaker Johnson successfully convinced Congress to punt the vote on budget funding to the new year under a bifurcated process in which some funding bills will expire in January and others in February. Whether or not this is a sensible approach is still up for discussion, but at least it keeps the government open and federal employees can make travel plans for the holidays.

Farm Bill Extension – NCGA supported Congress’ decision to extend reauthorization of the farm bill for one year, but we are nonetheless urging the legislation’s quick passage. While we’re putting this in the “in” column, it hasn’t exactly been “out.” 2002 was the last time a farm bill was enacted before it’s end of the fiscal year deadline. In the meantime, NCGA is taking advantage of the extra time to ensure the priorities of corn growers are included in the legislation.


Precedented Times
– We keep thinking we’ve seen it all, but this year brought new twists and turns to Capitol Hill as the House of Representatives went without a speaker for 21 days, a stressful time for our democracy. Mere weeks later, the House of Representatives expelled one of its own members for only the sixth time in history, and only the third since the Civil War. The 2024 presidential election is sure to bring some fascinating dynamics, but for now, we’re calling it: precedented times are behind us.

Timelines – Passing legislation on time appears to now be a relic of the past. We are already months behind in fiscal year 2024 government funding, the national defense authorization bill is behind schedule, and the farm bill reauthorization could be delayed by up to a year. Yet, NCGA continues to work to turn lemons into lemonade by using the extended time wisely and by working to advance some of our key priorities. The good news is that agricultural issues and corn grower related priorities still tend to bring the two parties together and remain an area of focus among Republicans and Democrats from the Midwest and other areas. We will continue to leverage this goodwill to get things done for growers.

The Old Guard – The fall of Rep. McCarthy’s speakership marks the end of the so-called Young-Guns era, a trifecta of young Republicans who showed great promise during the years former Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) ruled the House. This distinguished group included former Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and former Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.) along with McCarthy. On the Democratic side, Speaker Emeritus Nancy Pelosi’s departure from leadership along with Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) has hastened a new era of Democratic leadership. This all comes as the country experiences deep political, demographic and cultural shifts and as the mores of Congress continue to change. The long-term outcome is anyone’s guess. Stay tuned knowing that we work in a bipartisan way to advance your interests.

It has certainly been an interesting year that promises many twists and turns over the months and years ahead. We look forward to remaining the constant presence advocating for corn growers. I hope you and yours have a happy holiday season.

Until next year…

Appleton is the vice president of public policy for the National Corn Growers Association.

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