WASHINGTON — Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, tried Wednesday to advance Bill Northey’s nomination to be an undersecretary of agriculture only to once again run up against Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas.
Cruz has blocked the Iowa agriculture secretary’s nomination to the federal level for months now. He has no particular objection to Northey but is using the nomination as leverage in a dispute over federal ethanol requirements that he says are hurting oil refineries.
Renewable Identification Numbers are the tradeable credits used to show compliance with the Renewable Fuel Standard, which requires that a certain amount of ethanol be blended into the nation’s fuel supply.
Cruz and allies have argued that speculators are pushing RIN prices so high they’re driving refineries out of business.
“We can have a solution that’s a win for those corn farmers but also doesn’t bankrupt refineries and drive a bunch of blue-collar workers out of work,” Cruz said.
Grassley recently released an analysis by his aides indicating that refinery troubles have little to do with RIN prices.
“The RFS cynics are at it again but their arguments are once again coming up empty,” Grassley said on the Senate floor Wednesday as he and Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, argued in favor of the nomination.
Grassley suggested that the nomination faces two deadlines: whenever Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue gets tired of waiting for the confirmation of his undersecretary or when Northey runs out of patience.
“The deadline would be in his mind of how long he wants to hang around on the calendar of the United States Senate — whether that’s a month or a year would be up to him,” Grassley said.
Northey was nominated in September.