The Senate Agriculture Committee has advanced three Department of Agriculture nominations toward final floor votes, but at least one appears unlikely to win confirmation before this Congress adjourns. 

On Wednesday, the committee approved by voice vote the nominations of Mindy Brashears as undersecretary for food safety, Scott Hutchins as undersecretary for research, education and economics and Naomi Earp as assistant secretary for civil rights. 

But six of the panel’s Democrats, including ranking member Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), registered opposition to Earp, imperiling her chances for quick floor action during the lame duck session. 

Stabenow (shown above conferring with Senate Agriculture Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan.) told reporters after the vote she wants to make sure Earp will be sufficiently aggressive in preventing sexual harassment in the department, including the Forest Service. Earp served at USDA from 1987 to 1990 and later chaired the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission under President George W. Bush

“Given what’s happening in the Forest Service I don’t feel comfortable yet that she will be as strong as she needs to be,” Stabenow said. 

One Democrat, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, registered an objection to Hutchins. She didn’t explain her opposition or say whether she would object to the Senate considering her nomination by unanimous consent. 

Stabenow said didn’t know what Gillibrand would do. 

Hutchins, an entomologist who recently retired as global leader of integrated field sciences for Corteva Agriscience, was questioned by Democrats during his confirmation about climate change science and about Agriculture Secretary’s plan to relocate the Economic Research Service and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture from the nation’s capital. 

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