Trump nominees find approval

Last week was a whirlwind in the progression of President Donald Trump’s nominees important to the agriculture sector. Spoiler alert: Multiple important nominees were confirmed.

As previously noted, Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz has maintained his hold on Bill Northey, the nominee for Under Secretary of Agriculture for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services at USDA. Northey had been waiting since early October to be approved by the Senate.

The Senate is an odd beast, in that any senator can place a hold on a presidential nominee for any reason. The Majority Leader may be able to negotiate a resolution but this slows down the pace of all legislation. And, Senate Democrats are taking full advantage of other parliamentarian maneuvers to require 30 hours of debate on nominees even if they know they do not have the votes to block the nomination rather than waive the 30 hours and just get on with it. But in Northey’s case, he was held by a Republican.

A Republican hold on a Republican nominee? It must be Sen. Ted Cruz. He claims the reason for his hold was because he wanted changes in the Renewable Fuels Standard. Northey is from Iowa, a state that has a very big stake in the RFS, and until now served as the Iowa’s Secretary of Agriculture.

First, Cruz demanded a White House meeting on the RFS last year. He got that, yet he maintained his hold. Then, he demanded another White House RFS meeting this year. He got a second one. No promises came out of that meeting.

So what happened to get Cruz to lift his hold? Was it the relentless pressure from the aggies in Texas that caused Sen. Cruz’s shift in attitude? Was it because he’s up for re-election? The reasons remain a mystery.

Equally as important—what did Cruz get out of these four months of holding Bill Northey hostage? It caused agriculture a lot of anxiety and was just plain frustrating. These political games are why folks are so frustrated with Washington.

So, how did it all go down? Northey was actually confirmed by the full Senate on the same day that Cruz had his second White House meeting. All of us in Washington who have been closely watching this slowly unfold were quite shocked to see it happen all of the sudden. No grand speeches or fanfare on the Senate floor involved. But, hey, we’re not complaining.

In other nominee news, two of the Heartland’s own were confirmed last week. Gregg Doud, from Mankato, Kansas, was confirmed to be the chief agricultural negotiator in the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative. At a time when President Trump is on the verge of a trade war, Doud’s seat at the table should be especially valuable to agriculture.

In addition, Russell, Kansas, native C.J. Mahoney was confirmed to be a deputy U.S. trade representative.

Don’t get used to it though. The Senate doesn’t have any more heavy-hitting agriculture-specific nominees to confirm. The Administration has yet to nominate names to fill positions.

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