Siddiqui, Punke, Long Thompson, 12 more get recess appointments

By James C. Webster

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

Washington, March 27 – President Obama Saturday gave recess appointments to Islam A. (Isi) Siddiqui as chief U.S. agricultural trade negotiator, Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Michael Punke, and Farm Credit Administration Board Member Jill Long Thompson. They were among the President’s first 15 recess appointments that, the White House said, came only after “months of Republican obstruction.” Siddiqui and Punke were nominated in September, Long Thompson in October.

Siddiqui and Punke had widespread support from major agricultural groups, which had urged the Senate to approve their nominations after they cleared the Senate Finance Committee unanimously in December. More than 40 farm and business trade associations wrote Senate leaders Jan. 21 to say, “There is no justifiable objection to either nominee based on their qualifications.” A campaign opposing Siddiqui’s nomination, organized by the National Family Farm Coalition and the Pesticide Action Network, had no impact either with the White House or the Senate.

Obama said that Republicans had blocked votes on most of the 15 nominees “in the interest of scoring political points.” His appointees “have faced an unprecedented level of obstruction in the Senate,” the White House statement said, with 217 nominees pending an average of 101 days, including 34 nominees pending for more than 6 months. Those who received the recess appointments were pending an average of 214 days.

Siddiqui, who has been VP for science and regulatory affairs and VP for agricultural biotechnology and trade at CropLife America, held several USDA positions in the Clinton Administration – deputy under secretary and under secretary for marketing and regulatory programs and senior trade advisor to the secretary. He also had two years as senior associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies for biotechnology and food security issues.

Punke, who will be deputy USTR in Geneva, worked in the Clinton Administration as a senior trade policy advisor and director for international economic affairs and had been trade council for Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., on the International Trade Subcommittee. Long Thompson is a former member of Congress from Indiana, serving on the House Agriculture Committee, former under secretary for rural development at USDA and CEO of the National Center for Food and Agricultural Policy. She ran for governor and U.S. senator in Indiana.

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