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Conrad to Keep Budget Gavel; Stabenow to Take Over Ag

Sen. Kent Conrad announced Friday he will remain chairman of the Budget Committee next year, paving the way for Sen. Debbie Stabenow to take over as the leader of the Agriculture Committee.

“After many conversations with constituents, ag leaders and Senate colleagues, it is clear that the people of North Dakota are best served with me remaining the Chairman of the Budget Committee,” the North Dakota Democrat said in a statement Friday. 

Stabenow, who had been vying for the post for weeks, followed up on Conrad’s statement by saying she is ready to lead the Agriculture panel. 

“Agriculture is critical to Michigan’s economy, employing a quarter of our workforce,” the Michigan Democrat said in a release. “Not only does agriculture create jobs and feed our families across America, but it is also helping us develop new fuels and energy sources.”

Stabenow will be the fifth-ranking Member on the committee next Congress, but the four that sit ahead of her each chair a powerful committee in the Senate. Conrad and Stabenow are up for re-election in 2012, and each is looking for ways to be more appealing to voters.

The top spot on Agriculture came open after Chairman Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) lost her re-election bid to Rep. John Boozman (R), and Conrad briefly considered replacing her. But he noted in his statement Friday that he played a leading role in crafting the 2002 and 2008 farm bills, and will likely do the same during the next reauthorization. A host of agricultural groups also urged Conrad to stay atop Budget, writing in a letter to Conrad that his chairmanship “would be a better use of your experience and seniority on behalf of North Dakota agriculture, as well as to our country during these challenging times for our nation’s budget.” 

The other top Democrats on the Agriculture Committee, Sens. Patrick Leahy (Vt.), Tom Harkin (Iowa), and Max Baucus (Mont.), all hold prestigious chairmanships on other panels. None is said to be interested in becoming chairman of the Agriculture panel next year.

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