Who will occupy the Ranking Republican post on the Senate Ag Committee for the new Congress remains a matter of discussion in Washington, with split views on whether current Ranking Member Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) will remain in that role or if Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) takes the spot.
Congressional Quarterly (CQ) reported expectations are that Roberts will stay in the role, quoting Cochran as saying that he had not yet decided on whether he would opt to pursue the Ag panel ranking GOP spot.
As for Roberts, CQ said, "Roberts himself said he hadn't heard anything from Cochran. ‘I expect that I will continue to be ranking member or I hope that will be the case. That’s about it. Right now, I need to work the farm bill,’ Roberts said."
CQ also said that other Republicans on the panel concurred that Roberts was likely to retain the top Republican position on the Ag panel. "As far as I know, there is nobody challenging" Roberts, according to Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.). "I can’t imagine who it could be." Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) told CQ, "My expectation is that Sen. Roberts would have the support and continue serving as the ranking member. I think that’s the wish among members of the committee and the [Republican] conference as well." The publication also mentioned Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) expects Roberts in the position.
However, Washington publication Politico reported Cochran echoed a similar sentiment relative to his future, saying, "I’ve been looking at what the options are but I haven’t made any decisions." But Politico also reported that when told Roberts said he intends to stay in the top GOP spot, "the always-gentle Cochran bristled a bit."
Should Cochran opt to challenge Roberts, Politico said it would be voted on first by the Republicans on the Committee and that could also be raised in a challenge in the full Republican Conference.
What is raising this issue is that Cochran, who has served as Ranking Republican on the Senate Appropriations Committee for years, has reached the limit in terms of time that a Republican member can serve either as Chairman or the Ranking Minority Member on a committee.
To further muddy the waters, Politico said that Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) told them he fully intends to take the top Appropriations spot and would resist any waiver to extend Cochran’s term.