MI Senator Stabenow to Lead Trade Subcommittee on Senate Finance

MI Senator Stabenow to Lead Trade Subcommittee on Senate Finance

Agriculture Chairman Debbie Stabenow is set to become the next chairman of the trade subcommittee of Finance, triggering a round of mid-session gavel transfers on the tax-writing panel.

The Michigan Democrat confirmed in an interview she planned to exercise her seniority to take the gavel that had been held by Ron Wyden, D-Ore., who came Finance chairman. “We’ve got a lot of work to do on trade,” Stabenow said.

As trade subcommittee chairman, Stabenow would be charged with helping Wyden to try work out a compromise on a renewal of trade promotion authority for President Barack Obama.

Stabenow has attacked alleged currency manipulation by China and has been a champion of fair market access for domestic automakers and other manufacturers in negotiations for trade agreements like the pending Trans Pacific Partnership.

Wyden declined to discuss the assignment of Finance subcommittee gavels, but he said he would discuss plans soon with Orrin G. Hatch of Utah, ranking member on Finance. He said decisions would be finalized “very shortly.”

A move by Stabenow would set off a chain reaction of moves by Democrats on Finance.

For example, Michael Bennet of Colorado confirmed he had an interest in replacing Stabenow as chairman of the Energy subcommittee.

Bennet, chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, has a deep interest in energy-related issues and has pushed for tax incentives for corporations that invest in infrastructure bonds with repatriated foreign profits.

That would Bennet’s current post as tax subcommittee chairman for a more junior tax writer such as Bob Casey, D-Pa., or Mark Warner, D-Va.

Other more senior Democratic tax writers such as Maria Cantwell of Washington, Thomas R. Carper of Delaware, Bill Nelson of Florida and Benjamin L. Cardin of Maryland say they would prefer, for now, to chair subcommittees on other panels.

Foreign Relations Chairman Robert Menendez of New Jersey has expressed interest in the Trade subcommittee gavel but said Tuesday he would defer to Stabenow. “I am not going for it, at this time,” he said.

Menendez left open the possibility of becoming the top Democrat on the trade subcommittee in the next Congress. That’s because Stabenow has her eye on succeeding retiring Sen. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia as top Democrat on the Health Care subcommittee in 2015.

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