Cruz puts hold on Northey's USDA nomination, report says

Northey's nomination awaits a full vote by the U.S. Senate

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U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz has put a hold on the nomination of Bill Northey, Iowa’s agriculture secretary, to a post with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Political news website Politico reported Cruz and Utah Sen. Mike Lee had put holds on Northey’s nomination Wednesday. Lee had lifted his hold Wednesday afternoon, but Cruz’s was still in place, Politico reported Thursday.

A hold in the U.S. Senate is an informal action where a senator can say he or she does not want an action taken to the floor.

A spokesman for Cruz did not immediately respond to an email asking if the hold was still in effect.

Citing unnamed sources, Politico reported Cruz’s hold was a “reaction” to how Iowa’s senators, Republicans Joni Ernst and Chuck Grassley, had pushed to stop changes to the Renewable Fuel Standard earlier this month. Both Ernst and Grassley had threatened to hold up other nominees if the Environmental Protection Commission did not stop an announced reduction in how much in advanced biofuels would count toward the RFS.

Nine U.S. senators from oil refinery states, including Cruz, sent a letter to The White House Thursday to ask President Donald Trump to alter the RFS, Reuters reported. The senators argued in the letter that a lack of changes to the RFS “will result in a loss of jobs around the country, particularly in our states.”

Cruz has plenty of ties to Iowa politics. He won the Iowa GOP caucus in 2016, overcoming questions about whether his opposition to the Renewable Fuel Standard would hurt Iowa farmers if he made it to The White House. Cruz also managed to win despite then-Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad publicly saying he wanted Cruz defeated for his stances on the RFS.

The U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee voted in favor of Northey’s nomination as Undersecretary for Farm Production and Conservation and sent it to a full floor vote on Oct. 19.

If he’s approved for the USDA post, Northey would resign as Iowa’s agriculture secretary. Gov. Kim Reynolds, a Republican, would choose someone to finish out his term.

The hold on Northey’s nomination also backs up his potential successor. Grassley’s grandson, state Rep. Pat Grassley, has been mentioned as one potential candidate.

l Comments: (319) 398-8366; matthew.patane@thegazette.com

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