Congress Returns Amid Major Differences on Covid Aid and Election Outcomes

Posted on 11/15/2020 5:29 PM

House leadership contests begin Wednesday | Will Trump make a big China move?


Washington Focus


Both the House and Senate will be in this week. Both chambers will be out of session during Thanksgiving week.


     The House comes back into session Monday night. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) will call for the Biden administration to pass HR 1, democracy reform legislation, as a top priority post-election. On Wednesday, House leadership contests begin.


     The Senate is in session and will likely vote on the nomination of Judy Shelton to join the central bank’s board of governors on Tuesday or Wednesday. Senate Finance ranking member Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) criticized Shelton's nomination to the Federal Reserve Board, calling her ideas "wacky and outdated" and arguing that "giving her authority over the dollar would be like putting a medieval barber in charge of the CDC."


After the congressional Thanksgiving recess, the Senate is scheduled to be in session Monday, Nov. 30 through Friday, Dec. 18. The House longer term is scheduled be in session through Thursday Dec. 10, but history shows the House often stays in session longer than planned.


     Lame-duck session agenda: Besides possible Covid-19/stimulus aid and fiscal year (FY) 2021 appropriations, Congress is expected to consider the conference report on a Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), as well the annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).


Democrats repeat call for $2.4 trillion aid package. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) reiterated that their $2.4 trillion proposal needs to be the starting point for relief talks. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has pushed for about $500 billion, a top-line number well below the Trump administration’s roughly $1.9 trillion negotiating position before Election Day.


     Comments: On Friday there were some reports (The Hill, others) that the Democrats had returned to the $3.4 trillion package that passed the House in May. But further statements by Democratic officials made clear their price tag “starts” at $2.4 trillion. If the surge in Covid cases and in virus-related deaths do not pressure the two sides to come to an agreement, the topic will be punted to the new Congress next year. Some observers think the Democrats not budging from the $2.4 trillion mark and the reluctance of Republicans to embrace a higher price tag will be a Democratic campaign issue in Georgia's two runoff elections on Jan. 5.


The Food and Agriculture Climate Alliance on Tuesday will issue policy recommendations for addressing climate change. The coalition includes farm and conservation groups. Among other things, the coalition will recommend efforts to incentivize climate-smart practices via a carbon bank funding through USDA's Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC), tax credits or conservation programs.


On the political front, Axios reports that President Donald Trump plans a last-minute China crackdown.


     “President Trump will enact a series of hardline policies during his final 10 weeks to cement his legacy on China,” senior administration officials with direct knowledge of the plans told Axios' Jonathan Swan and Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian.


     Based on the Axios report, Trump will “try to make it politically untenable for the Biden administration to change course as China acts aggressively from India to Hong Kong to Taiwan, and the pandemic triggers a second global wave of shutdowns.”


     National Intelligence Director John Ratcliffe is expected to publicly describe in granular detail intelligence about China's nefarious actions inside the United States.


     What will Trump do? Axios says: “Trump officials plan to sanction or restrict trade with more Chinese companies, government entities and officials for alleged complicity in human rights violations in Xinjiang and Hong Kong, or threatening U.S. national security. The administration also will crack down on China for its labor practices beyond Xinjiang forced labor camps. But don't expect big new moves on Taiwan or more closures of Chinese consulates in the U.S.,” officials told Axios.


     Market impact: There had been previous chatter that Trump could get tough on China ahead. Commodity traders will have to determine whether any such Trump moves will impact China relative to previous and potential purchases of U.S. farm commodities via the Phase 1 agreement.


Regarding the Nov. 3 elections, Trump attorney Sidney Powell says they are “fixing to overturn the results of the election in several states.”


     Powell said a member of President-elect Joe Biden’s transition team, Peter Neffenger, is also a member of the board of directors for a company that committed election fraud that could cause the results of the 2020 election to be overturned. “He is president and on the board of directors of Smartmatic, and it just so happens he's on Biden’s presidential transition team that’s going to be nonexistent, because we’re fixing to overturn the results of the election in multiple states,” said Powell during an appearance on Sunday Morning Futures with Maria Bartiromo. “President Trump won not just hundreds of thousands of votes but by millions of votes that were shifted by this software that was designed expressly for that purpose."


     Powell said Neffenger had knowledge that the software provided by Smartmatic was designed to rig elections. “We have sworn witness testimony of why the software was designed, it was designed to rig elections,” Powell said. “He was fully briefed on it, he saw it happen in other countries, it was exported internationally for profit by the people that are behind Smartmatic and Dominion.”


     “They did this on purpose, it was calculated, they’ve done it before,” Powell charged. “We have evidence from 2016 in California. We have so much evidence I feel like it’s coming in through a firehose.”


     Neffenger, a retired U.S. Coast Guard admiral, joined Biden’s Agency Review team last week under the Department of Homeland Security team. Review teams help incoming presidents and vice presidents understand agency operations to ensure a smooth transition of power. He is listed on Smartmatic’s website as the chairman of the board of directors.


     The comments come a day after Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani mentioned the company’s election involvement in a tweet. “Did you know a foreign company, DOMINION, was counting our vote in Michigan, Arizona, and Georgia and other states,” Giuliani said on Twitter. “But it was a front for SMARTMATIC, who was really doing the computing.” “Look up SMARTMATIC and tweet me what you think,” Giuliani continued. “It will all come out.”


     The New York Times reported Saturday (link) that Smartmatic’s vote-counting software was “manipulated to report a skewed tally” in Venezuela’s election, but the company said the result was an anomaly caused by a lack of election monitors. Dominion has also denied claims its software was manipulated, citing a statement by the Department of Homeland Security that said there was “no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes, or was in any way compromised.” Christopher Krebs, the top U.S. cybersecurity official at CISA, along with state election officials, said in a statement that the Nov. 3 election “was the most secure in American history,” and there "is no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes, or was in any way compromised.”


     President Trump pulled back from a tacit concession to Joe Biden Sunday, insisting the former vice president had only won the White House in the eyes of the media, and vowing to keep fighting what he called a “rigged” election. “He only won in the eyes of the FAKE NEWS MEDIA. I concede NOTHING! We have a long way to go. This was a RIGGED ELECTION!,” he tweeted. The post was flagged by Twitter.


     Comments: Pro Farmer strives to cover both sides of an issue, but on this one, Fox News is solo on covering the charges. One of our roles is to cover the coverage and, in this case, we will report what other major media say on this important topic if and when it comes. 


Hearings and Events This Week


Monday, Nov. 16
     • President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will make remarks on the U.S. economy. The comments “on the economic recovery and building back better in the long term,” will take place in Wilmington, Delaware.

Tuesday, Nov. 17

     • Climate change. Food and Agriculture Climate Alliance announcement.
     • China. American Enterprise Institute webinar, "The China nightmare: A conversation with Dan Blumenthal and Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster."

Wednesday, Nov. 18

     • NAFB conference. National Association of Farm Broadcasting (NAFT) annual conference, through Friday.
     • Sustainable Agriculture Summit, through Thursday.



Economic Reports for the Week


Economic reports to watch include updates on retail sales, existing home sales and jobless claims.


Monday, Nov. 16
     • Federal Reserve Bank of New York releases its Empire State Manufacturing Survey for November. Consensus estimate is for a 15.5 reading, above the 10.5 figure from October.
     • Federal Reserve speakers: Mary Daly, Richard Clarida

Tuesday, Nov. 17

     • Census Bureau reports retail sales data for October. Expectations are for a 0.5% month-over-month rise to $552 billion. Excluding autos, retail spending is seen increasing 0.6% after jumping 1.5% in September.
     • National Association of Home Builders releases its NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index for November. Economists forecast an 85 reading, even with the October data. The 85 figure from last month was a record high for the index, as the housing market continues to be a bright spot for the economy.
     • Import and Export Prices
     • Industrial Production
     • Business Inventories
     • Treasury International Capital

Wednesday, Nov. 18

     • MBA Mortgage Applications
     • Census Bureau reports new residential construction data for October. Consensus estimate is for a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.47 million housing starts, roughly even with the September number.

Thursday, Nov. 19

     • Jobless Claims
     • Conference Board releases its Leading Economic Index for October. Economists forecast a 0.6% month-over-month increase to a 107.8 reading. While the index continues to rise, the pace of growth has slowed.
     • National Association of Realtors reports existing home sales for October. Economists forecast a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 6.6 million home sold, about even with September. In September, the median existing-home price was $311,800, up almost 15% from a year earlier.
     • Department of Labor reports initial jobless claims for the week ending on Nov. 14. This past week, the DOL reported 709,000 claims, the fewest since mid-March, but still elevated by historical standards.
     • Philadelphia Fed Manufacturing Index
     • Kansas City Manufacturing Index
     • Fed Balance Sheet
     • Money Supply


Key USDA & international Ag & Energy Reports and Events


With USDA's supply-demand updates released last week, focus now turns to demand, South America crop prospects, and potential U.S. plantings in 2021.


Monday, Nov. 16

          Ag reports and events:

  • CFTC Commitments of Traders report, delayed due to holiday last week
  • Export Inspections
  • Crop Progress
  • Feed Grains: Yearbook Tables
  • EU weekly grain, oilseed import and export data
  • France agriculture ministry releases grains output estimates
  • Holiday: India

          Energy reports and events:

  • OPEC+ Joint Technical Committee could provide an indication if a planned output increase for next year is likely to be delayed. Through Nov. 17.
  • EIA monthly Drilling Productivity Report
  • China October output data, including crude oil and refining,

Tuesday, Nov. 17

          Ag reports and events:

  • Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry Outlook
  • Sugar and Sweeteners Outlook
  • Global Grain Geneva conference, day 1
  • FranceAgriMer monthly crops report

          Energy reports and events:

  • API weekly U.S. oil inventory report
  • OPEC+ Joint Ministerial Monitoring Committee meeting

Wednesday, Nov. 18


          Ag reports and events:

  • Broiler Hatchery
  • Fruit and Tree Nut Data
  • Vegetables and Pulses Data
  • Milk Production
  • Turkey Hatchery
  • Online Asia-Pacific Agri-Food Innovation Summit, day 1
  • Global Grain Geneva conference, day 2

          Energy reports and events:

  • EIA weekly U.S. oil inventory report
  • U.S. weekly ethanol inventories

Thursday, Nov. 19


          Ag reports and events:

  • Weekly Export Sales
  • Livestock Slaughter
  • Port of Rouen data on French grain exports
  • Asia-Pacific Agri-Food Innovation Summit, day 2
  • Global Grain Geneva conference, day 3
  • Vietnam farm ministry’s conference on African swine fever, Ho Chi Minh City
  • BASF roundtable on sustainability in farming

          Energy reports and events:

  • EIA natural gas storage change

Friday, Nov. 20


          Ag reports and events:

  • CFTC weekly commitments of traders report
  • Peanut Prices
  • Dairy: Supply and allocation of milk fat and skim solids by product
  • Cattle on Feed
  • FranceAgriMer weekly update on crop conditions
  • Malaysia Nov. 1-20 palm oil export data
  • Asia-Pacific Agri-Food Innovation Summit, day 3

          Energy reports and events:

  • Baker Hughes weekly U.S. oil/gas rig counts



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