Inside D.C.

Ag Committees Shuffle Seats as Impeachment Looms

It’s musical chairs on both Senate and House Agriculture Committees as Congress writ large grinds to a virtual halt awaiting House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D, CA) promised transmission to the Senate of House-approved articles of impeachment against President Trump. 

After nearly a month of refusing to move, Pelosi will bring to the floor this week the paperwork to name her Democrat “managers,” those who will act as prosecutors when the Senate convenes an impeachment trial, the formal chamber consideration of the House impeachment articles accusing Trump of obstruction of Congress and abuse of power.  Once the House names its prosecution team, Pelosi will formally send over the articles and the ball will be in Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R, KY) court, so to speak.  The White House will name its defense team and U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts will be sworn in to preside over the Senate’s deliberations.  No telling how long the process will take or whether there will additional witnesses.

While the latest act of the impeachment drama ensued this week, Vice President Mike Pence swore in Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R, GA), a relatively unknown albeit wealthy Georgia conservative, to replace Sen. Johnny Isakson (R, GA).  The much-liked Isakson left the Senate for health reasons at the end of December.  Loeffler was appointed by Gov. Brian Kemp (R, GA) in December to take the Isakson seat.

As she serves out the unexpired Isakson term, her staff says she’ll spend as much as $20 million of her own money to win a special election later this year to keep the seat.  Loeffler, who toyed with but rejected a Senate run in 2014, comes to the Senate from her job as senior vice president of investor relations and communications at Intercontinental Exchange, a commodity and financial services company which owns the New York Stock Exchange.  She is married to company CEO Jeffrey Sprecher.  

Loeffler, who grew up on her family’s corn and soybean farm in Illinois, got a Senate Agriculture Committee seat thanks to Sen. David Perdue (R-GA) agreeing to surrender his seat to the freshman.  Given the ag committee has jurisdiction over the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), a primary regulator of her husband’s company, Loeffler says she’ll recuse herself “if needed on a case by case basis.”

“Growing up on the family farm, I understand the vital importance of agriculture to our state, and the issues facing rural communities and local businesses firsthand,” she said. “On the Senate Agriculture Committee, I will stand with our farmers, advance pro-growth policies, and proudly promote our Georgia Grown products. I will work around the clock to keep America growing.”

Perdue takes Isakson’s seat on the Foreign Relations Committee; Loeffler also takes her predecessor’s seat on the Veterans Affairs Committee.

Over on the House side, the impeachment imbroglio left Rep. Jeff Van Drew, the newly minted Republican from New Jersey, without his seat on the House Agriculture Committee.  Pelosi has not yet named a replacement.

Van Drew switched his political affiliation over opposition to Trump’s impeachment.  He was one of two Democrats to vote against moving forward with the impeachment process last October.  In addition to losing his ag panel seat, he got the boot from his slot on the House Natural Resources Committee.  His new party’s leadership hasn’t assigned Van Drew new committee positions.

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