Stabenow says she’s ‘concerned’ about new USDA appointments
Senate Agriculture Committee ranking member Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., said today she is concerned about Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue’s appointment Monday of three people as deputies in the same agencies for which they have been nominated for Senate-confirmed jobs but not confirmed.
Meanwhile, Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., said he understands why Perdue made the appointments, Politico reported.
“They need a lot of help in the farm bill implementation, so they’re helping where they can,” Roberts told Politico.
“I have some initial concerns and questions. The Constitution requires a Senate confirmation process for nominees for a reason, and it’s important to ensure that process is protected,” Stabenow said in an email to The Hagstrom Report.
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Perdue named Mindy Brashears as deputy undersecretary for food safety, Naomi Earp as deputy assistant secretary for civil rights and Scott Hutchins as deputy undersecretary for research, education and economics.
These deputy positions do not require Senate confirmation.
The three previously had been nominated by President Donald Trump for Senate-confirmed positions at USDA during the 115th Congress and were favorably reported to the full Senate by the Senate Agriculture Committee, but the Senate did not act on the nominations. Brashears was nominated for undersecretary for food safety, Earp for assistant secretary for civil rights and Hutchins for undersecretary for research, education and economics.
Trump has resubmitted their nominations to the Senate in the 116th Congress, and Roberts said recently that he intends to work with Senate Democrats to secure their confirmation.
“At USDA, we’ve been engaged in fulfilling our mission without all of our players on the field, so we want to get these strong, qualified leaders in the game,” Perdue said. “I want to thank these three for their patience, as their professional lives have been placed on hold for months during their nomination process. Now, they will get to work right away on behalf of the American people. Nevertheless, I urge the Senate to act on their new nominations as quickly as possible, so we can have them in the positions for which they were intended in the first place.”
Senate nominees are not allowed to hold their positions on an acting basis before confirmation, and Perdue noted that the three will not serve in “acting” capacities for the positions for which they have been nominated, but in deputy positions with lower rank.
“As a result, they will not be able to exercise the functions or powers expressly delegated to the Senate-confirmed positions,” Perdue noted in the news release.
Hutchins will oversee the Office of the Chief Scientist, with Dr. Chavonda Jacobs-Young continuing to serve as acting chief scientist, Perdue said.
Senate Rules Committee Chairman Ray Blunt, R-Mo., said Monday that Republicans plan to cut debate time on some lower-level nominees and accelerate confirmation of Trump’s judicial and executive branch picks whether Democrats agree to the idea or not, Politico reported.
Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., praised Perdue’s action.
“Scott, Mindy, and Naomi are qualified public servants who will help Secretary Perdue continue doing tremendous work at USDA,” Cramer said in a news release. “These appointments came out of necessity because the last Congress was unable to move at an appropriate speed. These necessary actions highlight the need for further Senate reforms to the way we handle the confirmation process, and I urge my colleagues to consider making serious changes.”
–The Hagstrom Report
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