Within the world of government and politics, we have had an eventful start to the new year.
You undoubtedly have seen and heard plenty about chaos on Capitol Hill surrounding the ballot certification process last week. Fallout from the rioting continues to dominate the political news cycle, especially after the U.S. House of Representatives this week voted to impeach President Trump for a second time.
Trump has only days left in the White House, and the Senate — who is responsible for holding the impeachment trial — has already declined to take up the impeachment before the inauguration. However, the impeachment may continue even after Trump has left office. While not as impactful since he would have already left office, a conviction means he would be barred from holding the office in the future.
Also last week, two Democrats won their special election bids to serve in the U.S. Senate for Georgia. That means the Senate will be split 50/50, with Vice President Kamala Harris serving as a tiebreaker. This effectively gives Democrats control of the Senate. In addition to other implications, it makes the chances of a serious impeachment trial and conviction more likely.
The presidential inauguration will occur next Wednesday, Jan. 20, and will likely look a lot different due to security and coronavirus precautions. Hopefully, things remain uneventful.
Priorities for the new administration and new Congress are already starting to take shape. Plans to address climate change are on the top of the list and have serious implications for cattle producers. We will be closely monitoring any proposals that could hinder your ability to raise cattle.
A lot of people point to a U.N. study that said cattle contribute 14% of all greenhouse gasses. Unfortunately, that study was flawed, and it also doesn’t represent the reality of the situation in the U.S., where cattle production accounts for only 2% of greenhouse gas emissions.
That’s a good stat to keep in your back pocket for your morning coffee discussions, but we will be working hard to ensure lawmakers and others have the facts and act accordingly.
Here in Texas, the 87th Texas Legislature began at noon on Tuesday, but with less fanfare than usual. The regular ceremonies and festivities were much quicker and quieter than usual amid coronavirus precautions, but as expected, the Texas House elected Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont) as their speaker.
The last few days in both the House and Senate have consisted of passing rules and other standard procedural stuff. Aside from the usual theatrics from the fringes of both parties, things stayed pretty uneventful.
Both chambers have now recessed until Jan. 26, to limit coronavirus exposure for members and staff. Work will continue behind the scenes as it always does, but there’s usually not a lot happening during the first month anyway. Especially in the House, the early days largely consist of ceremonial recognitions and visits from school fieldtrips and groups of constituents.
The next major waypoint will be the announcement of committee assignments. Committees are one of the first stops for every bill, and who sits on and chairs a committee plays a big role in whether bills will even be heard, much less make it to the floor for a vote of the full body. We anticipate those assignments will come out about the time they reconvene on the 26th, but we’ll keep you posted.
In the meantime, we will be busy working with staff and our fellow government relations professionals on a wide range of issues that we expect to come up during the remainder of the session. Be sure to check out Hughes Abell’s column in the January issue of The Cattleman magazine for a little more on what we expect out of the Texas Legislative Session.
The first member of the Texas House also tested positive for COVID-19 last week. Fortunately, with the scheduled recess, it shouldn’t have dramatic impacts on legislative business. Still, it may be a sign of things to come and indicate how the legislature will navigate similar situations in the future.
All of your government relations staff here in Austin are strapped in and ready to go! We will spend the remaining 136 days of the session fighting on your behalf and are honored to do so.
I will do my best to keep you informed, so stay tuned for more soon!
Jeremy Fuchs is the director of public affairs for Texas & Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association.