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Owens in line for Ag Committee promotion


Fresh off an election victory, Rep. William L. Owens is also in line for a promotion on the Agriculture Committee.

With the departure of a few more senior Democrats on the panel, Mr. Owens might become the ranking minority member of an agriculture-related subcommittee come January.

“In terms of seniority, I’ve probably moved up a couple of spots,” said Mr. Owens, who first won the seat in a 2009 special election. “I’m hopeful I’ll be considered for a leadership position on the Ag Committee.”

Mr. Owens said he was unsure what the leadership position would entail.

“I haven’t given that a lot of thought,” Mr. Owens said. “I was so consumed by the activity of the last couple of months.”

It’s possible, too, that Mr. Owens will secure a leadership position on the House Armed Services Committee, but that prospect is less certain. The Armed Services Committee is much larger than the Agriculture Committee, Mr. Owens said.

Mr. Owens defeated Republican Matthew A. Doheny on Tuesday, according to unofficial results.

Republicans are projected to keep their majority in the House, though Democrats chipped away at it Tuesday night. Republicans now control the chamber 234 to 193, according to a tally on the Huffington Post.

That means Mr. Owens will spend another two years in the minority. His party remained in control of the Senate and the White House, and Mr. Owens said he was optimistic that the two parties could work together after months of rancor leading up to the election.

“People sent us a message,” Mr. Owens said. “They want us to compromise.”

The “lame-duck” session of Congress before a new crop of legislators takes its seats could be critical to Fort Drum and the 10th Mountain Division. President Barack Obama has said that he wants to stave off more than $1 trillion in automatic cuts to the budget, including deep cuts to the military that could result in civilian layoffs at Fort Drum. Congressional leaders agree. The only thing left is finding out how to avoid those cuts.

“Clearly, I’m not sure whether or not our friends on the other side of the aisle are ready to talk about taxes or revenue generally,” Mr. Owens said. “If they’re willing to talk about revenue issues, I think we’re in the position to do some significant cutting in order to meet them.”

Significant cutting could include implementing savings in a $100 billion General Accountability Office report that looked at wasteful spending, and cutting $60 billion to $70 billion in Medicare spending. That could be accomplished in part by allowing the program to negotiate for drug prices, which would drive down costs, Mr. Owens said.

The House of Representatives also soon will take up the farm bill, which has sat in the legislative limbo leading up to the election, Mr. Owens said.

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