Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., confirmed Friday that he will be staying on as chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, ending speculation that he might step down to assume the chairmanship of the Agriculture Committee. Conrad, one of the leading budget hawks in Congress and a member of President Obama’s deficit commission, said he reached the decision after consulting constituents across North Dakota and colleagues in the U.S. Senate.
"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,” Senator Conrad said. “As Chairman of the Budget Committee and a senior member of the Agriculture Committee, the people of North Dakota will be best represented in negotiations on the next Farm Bill, legislation to reduce our dependence on foreign energy, and renewed efforts to put our nation’s fiscal house in order.”
Conrad cited his ability to shape the 2002 and 2008 Farm Bills from his position as Chairman of the Budget Committee and as a senior member of the Agriculture Committee, as important factors in his decision. "Even though we are about to write a new Farm Bill — and chairing the Agriculture Committee would be something I would very much enjoy — most everyone has concluded that I am in a very strong position to affect the outcome of the next Farm Bill by remaining a senior member of the Agriculture Committee and retaining the Chairmanship of the Budget Committee," Senator Conrad said.
A coalition of leading North Dakota agriculture organizations yesterday wrote Senator Conrad urging him to remain Chairman of the Budget Committee. "We believe that your continued chairmanship of the Budget Committee 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," wrote the 15 coalition members. In addition, the Grand Forks Herald — one of North Dakota's largest newspapers — recently called for Senator Conrad to remain Budget Committee chairman.
Conrad will be losing a close Republican ally in January with the retirement of Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H., the ranking Republican on the Budget Committee. Sen. Jeff Sessions III, R-Ala., is likely to move up to become the ranking member of the committee. On the House side, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., will assume the chairmanship of the Budget Committee when the GOP takes control of the chamber in January. Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., is slated to become the ranking Democrat on the Budget Committee.