DES MOINES — Gov. Kim Reynolds said Tuesday she will be sporting a “Free Bill” T-shirt when she meets this week with other members of the Republican Governors Association in Texas — home to a U.S. senator who has blocked Iowa Agriculture Secretary Bill Northey’s confirmation to a federal agricultural post.

Reynolds held up the apparel item for reporters at her weekly news conference, saying, “I will be wearing this as I head into hostile territory to make sure that it’s well known that it’s time to free Bill and we need to move on.”

She departed later in the day for the governors’ meeting in Austin.

Reynolds’s lighthearted jab played on a theme that U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue brought to Iowa last week when he said he wants to see Northey confirmed to a top USDA post “as quickly as possible.”

Northey’s nomination to be USDA Undersecretary for Farm Production and Conservation has been blocked in the Senate by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, in what Perdue described as “an intraparty squabble” over renewable fuels.

During his Iowa visit, Perdue said Trump administration officials won’t meet with Cruz — who is delaying the confirmation in a dispute over the Renewable Fuel Standard, which he has spoken against — because it has been U.S. policy “not to negotiate with hostage-takers.”

Perdue called Northey “an authentic farmer” and an experienced leader whose expertise is needed, while expressing disappointment and frustration with the Senate confirmation process.

“I wish I would have brought my ‘Free Bill Northey’ T-shirt,” Perdue told a roundtable meeting Friday in Johnston on agriculture tax and insurance issues that Reynolds attended.

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