Friday, April 15, 2011

Mississippi River Basin Water Resource News for the Week

Budget and Plans and Limits (Oh my!)
Yesterday, over half way into the 2011 Fiscal Year, Congress passed a 2011 spending bill that cut $39.9 billion from the Federal budget.  In bipartisan votes, the House voted 260-167 for the bill (roll call here); the Senate 81-19 in favor (roll call here). During the bill's debate and afterward, conservatives complained that it did not go far enough in cutting spending, while liberals were disenchanted that the compromise measure cut too much from needed programs.  The bill's passage, and signature into law today by the President, will avert a government shutdown that seemed all but certain late last Friday.

The next Federal spending date looming on the horizon is July 8, described by the Treasury Department as the latest possible date when Federal borrowing would be below the debt ceiling, even using all of the accounting manuveurs that the Department can bring to bear.  Before then Congress will have to agree to raise the debt ceiling so that more borrowing can occur, or face another potential government shutdown.  Some conservative House Members and Senators are saying they will resist raising the debt ceiling unless Democrats and the Obama Administration agree to push through deep spending cuts for the 2012 Fiscal Year and beyond.  It should be noted that the last day before July 8 that both chambers of Congress are in session together will be June 24.  The House is scheduled to be in recess the last week of June (for a district work week), and the Senate has a week-long recess scheduled the week of July 4.  Starting this weekend, both the House and Senate are on a two-week recess. 

In the meantime, work continues on the 2012 Fiscal Year budget, with the House voting today on House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan's budget resolution (a ten year plan, called the "Path to Prosperity").  That spending plan proposes to trim $6.2 trillion from the Federal debt over ten years but is largely presumed to be "dead-on-arrival" in the Senate.  The President rolled out his answer to the Ryan plan during a Wednesday speech, suggesting that House and Senate leaders appoint 16 colleagues to negotiate a deficit reduction plan with Vice President Biden by the end of June.  Meanwhile the so-called "Gang of Six" (senators), led by Sens. Mark Warner (D-VA) and Saxby Chambliss (R-GA)  continue their efforts to craft a compromise plan before sometime in June.  That plan supposedly would trim $4 trillion from Federal coffers over 10 years.

Given the level of partisan rhetoric this week and the upcoming recesses, two months (May and June) seem to offer little time to reach a compromise on long-term spending cuts.

Notable @UpperMiss Twitter Postings for the Week

Agriculture -
  • Driven by high fertilizer costs, researchers seek "Super Corn" to limit nitrogen use and water pollution
  • House and Senate Ag Committees Will Expedite Work on 2012 Farm Bill; send to Obama before 2012 election
  • Izaak Walton League conducting series of public discussions on 2012 Farm Bill over next couple of months
  • NY Times: High commodity prices fuel seeds of soil erosion
  • Environmental Working Group releases report about Iowa soil erosion
  • Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) sees end to direct farm payments
  • DuPont urges Congress not to roll back biofuel policy
  • 26 House Republicans urge Obama to release for crops some of 31.2 million acres held in Conservation Reserve Program
  • Storms thin Iowa soil, study finds
  • With spending handcuffed, disagreements on approach and cuts rising among those who will craft next farm bill
Water Quality-

  • Congressional briefing on PAHs in urban surface water draws attention to pending 2012 cuts to USGS NAWQA program

In the States -
  • WI Gov. Walker apparently backs off plans to repeal rule that sets phosphorus limits in state lakes & streams
Flooding, Floodplains, Dams and Navigation -
Biodiversity, Wildlife and Invasives -
Federal Budget -
  • Here's a summary of the details of the long-term Fiscal Year 2011 continuing resolution cuts
  • House approves FY 2011 spending bill in 260-167; moves on to Senate for vote later today
  • Congress approves bill to cut $39.9B and fund the government 
  • "Gang of Six" (Senators) seeks to take centrist approach; gain bipartisan support on 2012 budget reforms
  • House & Senate leaders & Administration to begin work on bipartisan deficit-reduction plan; June target date
Events -
  • Horinko Group announces 2nd Annual Water Resources Summit: Sustaining Our Nation’s Water Resources; Oct 25; U of MD
  • Online registration now open for National Conference on Ecosystem Restoration; Baltimore, MD, August 1-5
Political Scene -
Last word -
In case you've forgotten, today is April 15, tax day in the US.  Speaking of which, here's your virtual coffee break: "Taxman" by The Beatles

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