Is the nuclear option still on the table for passage of health care reform in the wake of the victory by Scott Brown in the special election for the Senate seat in Massachusetts?

The resolve of Democrats to use whatever means possible to pass health care was being called into question as a couple of Democrat Senators expressed the desire for a “time out” until Brown is seated. From Fox News:

But the Democrats do have options on health care.

Before polls closed, Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., outlined a combination of tactics to get what his party wants out of health care reform. First, he said the House could simply approve the Senate bill, sending it straight to Obama's desk. Then, Durbin said, the Senate could make changes to the bill by using a process known as "reconciliation," a tactic that would allow Democrats to adjust parts of health care reform with just a 51-vote majority.

"We could go to something called 'reconciliation', which is in the weeds procedurally, but would allow us to modify that health care bill by a different process that doesn't require 60 votes, only a majority," Durbin said. "So that is one possibility there."

Though House Democrats have major misgivings about the Senate version, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer on Tuesday suggested they'd be willing to consider approving the Senate bill intact, if the alternative is no bill at all. A majority of Democrats in that chamber are opposed to many provisions in the Senate-passed bill, including the controversial tax on high-cost insurance plans which the unions are vehemently against. After Brown's victory, Rep. Baron Hill, D-Ind., said the House should just take up the Senate bill.

Though victory was tantalizingly close, the Democrats’ quest for health care reform could be running aground with the election of Brown.  Most Americans – at least those with jobs, most likely - wouldn’t mind if the massive expansion in government bureaucracy is derailed now.

Here are other government-related items of interest this week. The Center for Science in the Public Interest has this to say about New York and the soda tax: I have to say that the soda tax is an idea whose time has come.

New York State Tax on Soda Cheered by CSPI
Statement of CSPI Executive Director Michael F. Jacobson

The first point you should consider when weighing soda taxes? Soda consumption harms taxpayers. Taxpayers in New York State and elsewhere are already paying a heavy price for out-of-control soda consumption, since taxpayers subsidize much of the treatment of obesity, diabetes, and other expensive health problems.

Those health problems put an enormous strain on state and federal budgets, in some cases, nearly to the breaking point. That’s why Governor David Paterson’s proposal to levy an excise tax on soda and other sugared drinks makes perfect sense. It’s a courageous yet common-sense move that I hope all governors, and all state legislators, consider replicating. Unlike milk or juice, soda provides nothing but empty calories to the diet—it is a totally unnecessary and worthless product that everyone would do well to avoid. A state tax on these disease-promoting drinks could raise a billion dollars a year and put a modest dent in consumption. That’s a windfall for taxpayers in more ways than one.Here is coverage about the soda tax;

More coverage on the issue.....

Deficit reduction, anyone? From the NYT:

WASHINGTON — President Obama plans to create a bipartisan commission to make recommendations to Congress on ways to reduce the federal budget deficit under an agreement reached Tuesday night at the White House.But according to people familiar with the deal, in principle it commits Democrats to work with Republicans to do what they have not been able to do for a decade through the regular process: compromise on spending cuts and tax increases to produce reductions in annual deficits that, under George W. Bush and now Mr.  Obama, have reached the highest levels since World War II.

Don’t lose track of cap and trade, says the GOP.

From the Republicans on the House Agriculture Committee:

The Ag Minute: Agriculture Community Must Be Alert -Now More than Ever
WASHINGTON – This week during The Ag Minute, Ranking Member Frank Lucas highlights the need for the agriculture community to be fully engaged in the political process and stay alert on the issue of cap and trade."Last week, Bob Stallman, the president of the American Farm Bureau Federation – the largest U.S. farm group – presented a timely message to its 6-million members.

"That is – those of us in agriculture must be fully engaged in the political process and must aggressively respond to quote 'extremists' and 'misguided activist-driven regulation.'"Stallman is right. "The agriculture industry, as we know it, will not survive under the heavy burdens of a cap and tax policy where higher production costs are a certainty. "And, the Obama administration has made it clear that protecting American agriculture is not a priority by pushing for Congress to pass cap and trade legislation, or else face heavy-handed regulation from the EPA. 

EPA's decision to move forward with regulating greenhouse gases does not make cap and trade a more attractive solution.

"Instead, this administration and this Congress should be focused on exploring all
economic and energy options that encourage innovation and stimulate economic growth, rather than continuing on the misguided course that this administration is following."  

If the rest of the citrus crop has struggled, not so for the clementines.

From the Jan. 12 Crop Production report:

The U.S. tangerine and mandarin crop is forecast at 544,000 tons, up 8 percent from the December 1 forecast and 23 percent above the 2008-09 crop. California’s tangerine and mandarin forecast is 8.20 million boxes (308,000 tons), up 17 percent from the October 1 forecast and 22 percent higher than last season. If realized, this will be a record high production in California. 

A food safety science board is needed to protect public health,  says Rosa DeLauro.

Washington, DC— Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (CT-3) released the following statement today in reaction to the recall of approximately 864,000 pounds of beef products potentially contaminated with E. coli by the Montebello, California-based company Huntington Meat Packing Inc.

The recalled products include foodstuffs produced as far back as 2008. “While any food safety recall is a major concern to me, this one is especially alarming as some of the products included were produced almost two years ago.  This is a glaring indication that the current inspection system for meat and poultry is inherently flawed and not sufficient to protect the public health.

“Contaminated meat products continue to enter our food supply at a disturbing rate.  And as recalls like this attest, it is time for the meat and poultry inspection system at USDA to be subject to a comprehensive review by an external, independent science board to ensure that the current system is adequately protecting the public health.  Such a board would support and advise USDA, ensure that the inspection process is rigorous and scientifically robust, and recommend changes to any practices that are insufficiently protecting our food supply.”


WASHINGTON, Jan. 19, 2010—Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has allocated $45 million, provided by Section 10201 of the 2008 Farm Bill, for projects to build and preserve critical plant health safeguarding initiatives across America.  Funding will be provided to more than 50 cooperators including state departments of agriculture, universities, nonprofit organizations and USDA agencies in support of over 200 projects.  These state, regional, and national projects will support the Farm Bill goals of building strong systems to safeguard the health of our agricultural industries using early plant pest detection and surveillance, threat identification and mitigation. 

From Adam Putnam’s office this week:

NAPLES, Fla. -- Congressman Adam Putnam today inspected freeze damage to vegetable farms in southwest Florida with Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart. This was the third day of a sweep Putnam has made across central and southern Florida following 11 days of record low tempertures earlier this month."Nearly everywhere we went, the damage was worse than expected," said Putnam. "The duration of this cold was something no one had experienced before and clearly was an aggravating factor to the temperature itself. As the state has warmed up, more damage has been revealed.

"Farmers are used to struggling through adversity, and they will come through this also. This wasn't catastrophic, but it certainly was a blow that Florda's economy didn't need at this time."

I would assume most of the exporting community is pleased with the results of the presidential election in Chile  Here is coverage from Business Week: