Washington DC Update

March 18, 2021

Farm Workforce Modernization Act of 2021

Today the House is scheduled to consider H.R.1603, the Farm Workforce Modernization Act of 2021.  Text of the legislation may be found here.  This immigration bill would address legal status of farm workers. Floor consideration of this separate piece of legislation reflects a change by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to adopt a piecemeal legislative approach to immigration.   Previously there was a desire to enact comprehensive immigration reform.

Although the bill is expected to be passed by the House, the Senate outlook is uncertain.  Immigration legislation is being carefully scrutinized by both House and Senate Republicans given the current situation of large increases of unaccompanied minors and others entering the U.S.


House Democratic leaders may also consider this week a bill to block the massive across-the-board spending cuts which would result from the newly enacted $1.9 trillion economic stimulus package.  PAYGO rules must be waived in order to avoid the budget sequestration reductions in farm bill programs as well as many other areas of the government.  The House is expected to easily pass a waiver on PAYGO, the Senate is less certain given that at least 10 Republicans are needed to pass the measure in the Senate. In the past, the waiver was inserted into must-pass legislation as was done for the 2017 tax bill.

Sequestration cuts are a result of limitations enacted in 2010 under pay-as-you-go rules, which require Congress to offset the cost of each piece of legislation.  Both parties have repeatedly waived the requirement to avoid the cuts with other major reconciliation packages. Democrats joined Republicans to avert $150 billion in cuts that would have been prompted by the 2017 tax overhaul, including a $25 billion chunk from Medicare. Congress also waived any reductions when it came to Obama-era stimulus legislation and multiple tax cut packages under George W. Bush.

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