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Crookston Times - Crookston, MN
  • Heitkamp calls farm bill 'job one' in US Senate

  • Heitkamp said she expects a Canada-to-Texas pipeline that has been blocked by President Barack Obama will be approved in the next couple of months.
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  • Sen.-elect Heidi Heitkamp took a victory lap around North Dakota Thursday and pledged that her "job one" in Washington would be helping to craft farm legislation.
    Heitkamp told reporters after an event in Fargo that she had been offered a spot on the Senate Agriculture Committee, which will be tasked with writing the next farm bill. Farming was one of the three F's in the Democrat's campaign platform, along with fracking and finances.
    She defeated Republican Rick Berg by fewer than 3,000 votes in a contest not determined until Wednesday.
    Speaking to supporters at the Fargo Teamsters hall, she listed the farm bill, dealing with the country's massive debt and a national energy policies as her top priorities. But there was a hush after she warned of looming budget cuts.
    "It may disappoint some you down the road when we make those tough decisions," she said.
    Heitkamp said she expects a Canada-to-Texas pipeline that has been blocked by President Barack Obama will be approved in the next couple of months.
    "I've always thought this was about putting it in a holding pattern, waiting for the election to get over," Heitkamp said of TransCanada Corp.'s Keystone XL pipeline, an important cog in North Dakota's booming oil development. "That shouldn't have happened. We should have had those jobs and pipeline built. We've lost 12 months here."
    Ron Ness, president of the North Dakota Petroleum Council, congratulated Heitkamp on her victory and asked her to help convince Obama to visit the rich Bakken and Three Forks formations in the western part of the state.
    "As a member of the majority party in the U.S. Senate, Sen.-elect Heitkamp will play an important role in working with both parties to ensure the swift approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, as well as a comprehensive energy policy to protect and boost domestic oil production in our state and across the nation," Ness said in a press release.
    Heitkamp's campaign emphasized her independent thinking and willingness to go against the party philosophy on some issues, such as guns and oil. She said she has already had "a pretty lengthy policy discussion" with Republican Sen. John Hoeven and that the two of them have similar approaches to passing legislation.
    "Hoeven gets it. He gets that if we are going to move this country forward, we cannot do it by just listening to one side, the most extreme of people," she said.
    Heitkamp, who also planned stops Thursday in Grand Forks, Bismarck and the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation, told Fargo it made the difference in the election. Heitkamp won by nearly 10,000 votes in Cass County, where Berg lives.
    On two occasions during her speech she raised her hand up in a motion to encourage the crowd to keep applauding, once when she talked about her conversation with Hoeven and once when she told them Berg called her twice on Wednesday.
    Page 2 of 2 - Arthur Lies, 82, a retired junior high school band teacher, said Heitkamp already has credibility in Washington, D.C., citing her ongoing support from former President Bill Clinton and her popularity when she was North Dakota's attorney general.
    "I have been a Heidi fan since before she ran for attorney general. I can't get over the energy she has," Leis said after Heitkamp's speech. "I don't agree with her on everything, like the pipeline, but I believe in the person."
    Heitkamp is the first woman elected to represent North Dakota in either the U.S. Senate or House. One of the attendees at the Fargo rally, Bonnie Bernardy, 74, called that an important milestone.
    "It carries a lot of significance. We need more women in public office," Bernardy said. "We don't have nearly enough women in comparison to the percentage of population."
    While downplaying it, Heitkamp said she understands the symbolism.
    "Leadership comes in all sizes and genders," she said before leaving the hall. "I don't think I see the world through a gender lens, so I hesitate a little bit, but I will tell you some of the proudest moments I had was when young girls would come to me and just be so excited."

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