Centrist Sen. Conrad will stay atop Senate budget panel

Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) announced Friday he would look to remain chairman of the Senate Budget Committee in the next Congress.

Conrad said he'd chosen to keep his top spot on the budget panel and he had opted against seeking the chairmanship of the Senate Agriculture Committee.

"After many conversations with constituents, ag leaders and Senate colleagues, it is clear that the people of North Dakota are best served with me remaining the chairman of the Budget Committee,” Conrad said in a statement. 

“As chairman of the Budget Committee and a senior member of the Agriculture Committee, the people of North Dakota will be best represented in negotiations on the next farm bill, legislation to reduce our dependence on foreign energy and renewed efforts to put our nation’s fiscal house in order," he added.

Conrad's position puts him in a key position in the Senate to shape some of the biggest legislative battles expected over the next two years. The North Dakota Democrat is a relatively centrist figure on budgetary issues and has shown willingness to consider the kinds of cuts called for by the co-chairmen of President Obama's fiscal commission.

Republicans who are set to take control of the House in January have made clear they intend to seek spending cuts and possible entitlement reforms as a way to slash the deficit. Conrad's chairmanship of the Senate's budget panel would make him the key point of contact between Senate Democrats and the House GOP in the looming budget battles.

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