Senate Ag approves Hutchins, Brashears, Earp |

Senate Ag approves Hutchins, Brashears, Earp

The Senate Agriculture Committee today approved again President Donald Trump’s nominations of Scott Hutchins to be Agriculture undersecretary for research, education and economics, Mindy Brashears to be undersecretary for food safety and Naomi Earp to be assistant secretary for civil rights.

The vote was by voice, with Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., voting no on the nomination of Earp, and Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., voting no on the nomination of Brashears.

The committee approved the nominations last year, but the Senate failed to approve them before the end of the Congress, and Trump renominated all three. The committee did not find it necessary to hold another confirmation hearing. No date has been set for a full Senate vote on confirmation.

Ranking member Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., said she objected to the Trump administration’s decision to hire all three nominees as deputy secretaries, which means that they have been able to work without Senate approval.

Stabenow voted for all three nominees today including Earp, whose nomination she opposed when the committee voted on the three nominees last year. Stabenow was dissatisfied last year with Earp’s answers on questions about sexual harassment. But she said Earp had given her assurances that she will address the issues in the U.S. Forest Service. and that she will monitor Earp’s performance.

House Agriculture Nutrition, Oversight and Department Operations Subcommittee Chair Marcia Fudge, D-Ohio, said today she had sent Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue a letter detailing her concerns with Earp’s nomination:

“I wrote to Secretary Perdue this morning because I have serious reservations about Ms. Earp that need to be formalized,” Fudge said in a news release.

“As chair of the subcommittee charged with oversight of the department, I am concerned by Secretary Perdue’s decision to appoint Ms. Earp to a senior level position that does not require Senate approval, while her confirmation remains in pended status.

“I have in my letter asked the secretary to provide additional details on Ms. Earp’s would-be role and responsibilities, the organizational structure of her mission area, specific details on the decision-making behind USDA’s recent civil rights work, and details on Ms. Earp’s plans to address allegations of harassment and workplace discrimination, if confirmed.

“I remain committed to holding USDA accountable. We must continue to push for strong leadership and civil rights enforcement throughout the department to ensure workers’ rights are protected to the full extent and letter of the law.”

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