Tags: Trump Administration | Donald Trump | Heidi Heitkamp | Trump | Agriculture

Trump's Democratic Cabinet Pick Would Ignite Political Firestorm

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Monday, 19 Dec 2016 11:23 AM Current | Bio | Archive

The naming of Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp as secretary of agriculture by President-elect Trump would set off far-felt political shockwaves.

But the choice may not be as ludicrous as it seems. Along with giving North Dakota’s Gov. Jack Dalrymple the opportunity to name a fellow Republican as her replacement in the Senate, Heitkamp’s joining the Cabinet of Republican Trump would almost surely infuriate her fellow Democrats in the Senate. "That would be very difficult for us," Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., told CNN Sunday.

Should Heitkamp get the nod from Trump, Gov. Dalrymple would almost certainly name Republican Kevin Cramer, to her Senate seat. That would give Republicans a 53-to-47 seat advantage in the Senate, compared to the present breakdown of 52 GOP seats to 48 for the Democrats.

Sources told us that Trump has yet to formally offer the freshman lawmaker the agriculture slot but will almost certainly do so at an expected meeting this week. The same sources said that two figures that Trump counts as close allies were urging him to appoint Heitkamp secretary of agriculture: oil and gas entrepreneur Harold Hamm, who has a home in North Dakota and knows Heitkamp, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who reportedly has a good relationship with his Democratic colleague.

Under state election law, a special election would be held immediately to fill the remainder of Heitkamp’s term (until next year). With Republicans now holding every statewide office in North Dakota and hefty majorities in both legislative houses, Democrats would be hard-pressed to come up with a formidable contender.

Democrats serving in Cabinets under Republican presidents and Republicans in Democratic cabinets are nothing new. But in most cases, the Cabinet member from the other party is someone not involved in elective politics or retired from office.

Former Rep. Ray LaHood, R-Ill., for example, had retired from Congress in 2008 before Barack Obama recruited him to be secretary of transportation. Democrat Norm Mineta, a former congressman from California, had served in Bill Clinton’s Cabinet before accepting Republican George W. Bush’s offer to be secretary of transportation in 2000.

It is when a sitting office-holder accepts a Cabinet slot under a president of the other major party that partisan sparks fly. In 1969, Sen. Henry “Scoop” Jackson, D-Wash., whose knowledge of the Pentagon was unmatched, was offered the position of secretary of defense by Republican President-elect Richard Nixon and, according to the late columnist Bob Novak, “he gave Nixon a tentative yes. But when word leaked out, Democratic senators pressured Jackson in brutal fashion. One of them, Sen. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts, warned that Jackson’s old colleagues in the Democratic cloakroom would make the Senate a living hell for him as Richard Nixon’s defense Secretary. Jackson regretfully declined.”

John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.

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The naming of Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp as secretary of agriculture by President-elect Trump would set off far-felt political shockwaves.
Heidi Heitkamp, Trump, Agriculture
Monday, 19 Dec 2016 11:23 AM
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