Wednesday evening the U.S. House failed to pass a Continuing Resolution that would have kept the government open for business from October 1 through November 18. The final vote was 195 to 230 with 43 Republicans voting against the bill.
The House measure included $2.65 billion in fiscal 2012 disaster aid, on top of $1 billion in fiscal 2011 money. The immediate offset would have taken $1.5 billion from the Energy Department's Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Loan Program. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., had indicated his opposition to the House offset, citing the resurgence of the U.S. auto industry.
The U.S. Senate, awaiting House action, has already agreed to provide $6.9 billion for disaster aid without offsets. Senator Reid says he would continue to demand that new disaster aid be free of offsets and threatened to keep his chamber in session through next week’s scheduled recess if needed. But, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., says he is confident the two parties would agree soon.
Meanwhile, the House Judiciary Committee approved legislation that mandates the use of E-Verify for all U.S. employers. But as the proposed Legal Workforce Act goes to the full House for passage, it will not include a provision for an agricultural workforce. The committee rejected an ag worker amendment offered by Representative Dan Lungren, R-Calif.
Without an ag worker program, United Fresh Produce Association Senior Vice President of Public Policy Robert Guenther says the legislation threatens the viability of fruit and vegetable growers across the country and will significantly impact the entire fresh produce marketing chain. United Fresh is urging interested parties to voice their concerns to lawmakers in an effort to get an ag worker program amendment added on the House floor. If the current E-Verify bill is passed, Guenther says it could devastate a large and vibrant section of American agriculture.