U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, confirmed this week that he will hold up the nomination of Bill Northey to a federal agriculture post until he gets a meeting with the president to discuss the Renewable Fuel Standard.
In a letter sent to Gov. Kim Reynolds, Cruz said he wanted to “clarify the intent of my efforts to find a win-win solution to unleash an American energy renaissance.”
Cruz sent the letter almost three weeks after national media outlets, including political news site Politico, reported the senator’s hold on Northey’s nomination.
Northey, currently Iowa’s Secretary of Agriculture, has been nominated to serve as the U.S. Department of Agriculture Undersecretary for Farm Production and Conservation. A U.S. Senate committee approved his nomination, but his confirmation still requires a vote on the Senate floor.
In that position, Cruz said Northey and the USDA would play “a critical role in formulating RFS policy.”
“Accordingly, I have placed a hold on the nomination of Bill Northey … until and unless we secure the aforementioned meeting where we can bring diverse interests together to try to find meaningful short-term solutions while setting the stage for longer-term policy certainty,” Cruz wrote.
He also took issue with Iowa’s own U.S. Senators, Republicans Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst, threatening to delay other federal nominees as they fought against changes to the RFS.
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Grassley did not put a hold on any EPA nominee and has not threatened to hold up any judicial nominees, a spokesman for his office said. Ernst also did not place a hold on nominees, her office said. A committee Ernst serves on did postpone a vote on a nominee to the EPA over the issue, but he has since been confirmed.
Cruz’s hold on Northey’s nomination “is unnecessary,” Brenna Smith, a spokeswoman for Reynolds, said Wednesday.
“Sec. Northey is an incredibly qualified candidate and should be confirmed immediately,” Smith said in an email.
Reynolds said earlier this week she will wear a “Free Bill” T-shirt in Texas for a Republican Governors Association conference.
“I will be wearing this as I head into hostile territory to make sure that it’s well known that it’s time to free Bill and we need to move on,” Reynolds said.
USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue said last week the administration would not meet with Cruz as the United States government does “not negotiate with hostage-takers.”
Cruz and a group of U.S. senators from oil-refining states have requested a meeting with President Donald Trump to talk about the RFS. Without changes to the RFS, those senators have argued their states stand to lose thousands of jobs.
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“Our goal in requesting this meeting is simple: to bring together diverse interests in an effort to come together and fid a mutually beneficial outcome that will help both Iowa corn growers as well as protect blue-collar, refinery jobs that are at risk in too many states across our great nation,” Cruz said in his letter.
The RFS determines how much renewable fuel must be blended into the nation’s fuel supply. The Environmental Protection Agency initially had proposed reducing the amount of biodiesel required under the standard, but since has backed off that idea.
The hold is not the first time Cruz has clashed with ethanol and pro-RFS interests in Iowa. During his 2016 Iowa caucuses campaign, Cruz was consistently asked about his stance on the RFS and followed by an industry group that called him out for past opposition.
Cruz won the Iowa Republican caucus.
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