Nominees in waiting

Well, it’s a new year and I, for one, am glad and ready for it. Last year was filled with, well, anything and everything you could think of—good and bad.

While most of the country starts over on a fresh, clean slate in 2018, Congress does not. The business of 2017 is carried over into the new year—much with the same problems and criticisms.

After passing major tax reform and funding the federal government until mid-January, federal lawmakers left Washington in late December to go back to their home states and districts to celebrate the holidays and be with family and constituents.

Senators returned on Jan. 3, while congressmen and congresswomen return on Jan. 8. After spending a good chunk of time back home, I’ve noticed that lawmakers tend to come back to Washington with a renewed sense of service and reminded why they are here in the first place.

I’m hoping that same spirit will be reignited in 2018, because in the United States Senate, there are federal nominees who are important to agriculture that are being held up by certain senators.

The Senate is a unique beast in that hundreds of nominees for federal positions—from the Secretary of Agriculture in the President’s Cabinet to the commissioner at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission—must be vetted and confirmed by the full U.S. Senate. The House of Representatives doesn’t have to worry about this, allowing them to focus on more legislative efforts.

To date, there are four nominees that are important to agriculture that have been nominated by the White House and are awaiting Senate confirmation. All four have had their nominations hearings, but they have yet to be voted on.

First, we have Gregg Doud to be the Chief Agricultural Negotiator for the United States Trade Representative. A Kansas native with extensive agricultural experience and background, Gregg is a qualified and noncontroversial nominee for this important and timely position.

Second, there is Bill Northey to be the USDA Undersecretary for Farm Production and Conservation. Northey, is from Iowa, and served as the state’s Secretary of Agriculture. Senators and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue have been seen wearing “Free Bill Northey” shirts.

Third, from Tennessee, we have Stephen Vaden to be the USDA general counsel.

Fourth, we have Dawn Stump to be a CFTC commissioner. Dawn is from Texas and boasts a wealth of agricultural and financial experience.

All four nominees rolled over from 2017 and are in a holding pattern, waiting for their time to be voted on.

I’m hopeful the senators who are holding up action will come to their senses and remove their hold on these nominees, and I hope rural America voters will remember these political games in November. 

Editor’s note: Seymour Klierly writes Washington Whispers for the Journal from inside the Beltway.