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Senate panel OKs Agriculture nominee Dorr

(Monday, June 29, 2003 -- CropChoice news) -- Emily Gersema, AP, 06/18/03: WASHINGTON - A Senate committee voted Wednesday to approve President Bush (news - web sites)'s nominee to head the Agriculture Department's rural affairs office, despite protests from some Democrats.

The Agriculture Committee decided on a 14-7 vote to recommend Iowa farmer Thomas C. Dorr's nomination, with Democrats opposing the move.

Sen. Tom Harkin (news, bio, voting record), the senior Democrat on the committee, argued that questions about Dorr's racial views and farm finances have not been answered by the Agriculture Department, nor by Dorr.

"There are a lot of allegations about this nominee," Harkin said, adding that Dorr had "tried to cheat" the government out of $35,000.

He vowed to block Dorr's nomination when it gets to the Senate floor.

Dorr was nominated in April 2001 to be the Agriculture Department's undersecretary for rural development. Critics have accused him of submitting false paperwork to the Agriculture Department on behalf of his family's farm operation, which later repaid the agency. He also was accused of making racially insensitive remarks.

Last August, the committee chaired by Harkin at that time voted to make no recommendation. But Bush decided to put Dorr in office through a recess appointment, allowing him to assume the post until the end of this year, without Senate approval.

Sen. Thad Cochran (news, bio, voting record), R-Miss. and current chairman of the committee, said lawmakers had plenty of time to check Dorr's qualifications. He added that concerns about Dorr's nomination seemed to be a local issue.

"This situation is, the nominee is not only going to be serving the state of Iowa," Cochran said. "I have heard no one make any complaints on his performance and views."

Sen. Charles Grassley (news, bio, voting record), R-Iowa and member of the committee, voted to approve Dorr.

The administration is pushing to get Dorr's nomination quickly approved because he cannot be given another recess appointment, said Mary Waters, an assistant secretary in congressional relations at the Agriculture Department.

Dorr helped raise funds for Bush's presidential campaign in Iowa.

___ On the Net:

Senate Agriculture Committee: http://agriculture.senate.gov