Yesterday we covered the suggestion that the budget conference committee might be closing in on a deal. There’s another deal apparently coming down the pike too: the farm bill agreement. Every five years, Congress produces a bill that sets agricultural policy, including subsidies, making it ripe for disagreements. One of the big disagreements has been on how much to cut from the food stamps program (formally called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) and how to determine the formula for calculating subsidies farmers are entitled to. The chairmen, Representative Frank Lucas and Senator Debbie Stabenow, and ranking members, Representative Collin Peterson and Senator Thad Cochran, from the Agriculture Committees met on Wednesday, returning from their meeting upbeat. However, they declined to comment on specifics of their talks, other than indicating that they discussed the whole bill.

Roll Call: Farm Bill Talks Show Promise for 2014 Passage

Politico: Farm Bill Talks Progress

A potential agricultural agreement is not the only subject of recent speculation. Speaker John Boehner has hired Rebecca Tallent as his top aide for immigration policy, leading some to question whether the House will pursue immigration reform sometime next year. Tallent has most recently worked on immigration policy at the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC), which was founded by former Republican Senate Majority Leaders Howard Baker and Bob Dole and former Democratic Senate Majority Leaders Tom Daschle and George Mitchell. Before the BPC, Tallent worked for a number of Republicans, including for Senator John McCain for both his Presidential campaign and Senate office.

Roll Call: Boehner’s New Immigration Policy Director Has Deep Experience on Overhaul Efforts

Issues like immigration, farm policy and the budget consume a lot of energy and resources on the Hill, but that doesn’t mean that Congress can’t focus on other issues that are a bit less pressing, perhaps. Today the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology held a hearing called “Astrobiology: Search for Biosignatures in our Solar System and Beyond”.  Or as a layman might put it, “Is there life out there?” It featured one scientist from NASA, one from MIT, and a scholar who was NASA’s chief historian from 2003 to 2009. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee turned the event into a talking point in a press release, criticizing Republicans for not focusing on immigration or the minimum wage. However, the committee that sponsored the hearing would not have oversight over such issues.

Washington Post: House Panel Ponders Extraterrestrial Life

And for more holiday cheer: Washington decorates for Christmas and Hanukkah.

National Journal: D.C. Decks Its Halls

And for our latest blog post: Flattening the Rules: The Implications of the Senate Nuclear Option