Politics & Government

The latest Texan who could be agriculture secretary would diversify Trump’s Cabinet

Former U.S. Rep. Henry Bonilla, R-Texas, met with President-elect Donald Trump on Friday, the fourth Texan who could become agriculture secretary under Trump.
Former U.S. Rep. Henry Bonilla, R-Texas, met with President-elect Donald Trump on Friday, the fourth Texan who could become agriculture secretary under Trump. AP

Throughout November and into December, Texans were a daily sight at Trump Tower in New York, as future Cabinet nominees Rick Perry and Rex Tillerson dodged tourists to ascend the elevator to Trump’s office.

In late December, the parade of Texans shifted from Midtown Manhattan to Palm Beach, Florida, as Trump is camped at his Mar-a-Lago resort over the holidays.

The parade continued on Friday with former U.S. Rep. Henry Bonilla, R-Texas, meeting with the president-elect at his holiday retreat to discuss serving as secretary of agriculture, the fourth Texan to be vetted for the position in recent days.

“There were general questions about the agency, general discussion about regulations that farmers want fixed,” Bonilla said to reporters after the meeting. He confirmed to reporters that the meeting was about the secretary of agriculture position.

The secretary of agriculture oversees nearly 300,000 square miles of national forests and grasslands, the safety of food production and the food stamp program for low-income households. Trump’s nominee for the position must be confirmed by the Senate.

Bonilla represented Texas’ massive 23rd Congressional District, a sprawling expanse of land between El Paso and San Antonio, from 1993 to 2007. The district has changed hands between Democrats and Republicans frequently since Bonilla lost a special election after redistricting.

Bonilla said the meeting “went very well” and said he would work in conjunction with the EPA to eliminate water regulations if named to the Cabinet post.

“I chaired the agriculture appropriations sub-committee for my last six years in Congress, and it was a huge responsibility to be in charge of the budget for all of the USDA,” Bonilla said. “I’ve been out of Congress for a few years but here I am.”

But Bonilla wasn’t the only Texan at Mar-a-Lago on Friday.

Former Texas agriculture commissioner Susan Combs met with Trump briefly but did not speak to reporters after her meeting. Sitting Texas agriculture commissioner and vocal Trump supporter Sid Miller met with senior Trump advisers Reince Priebus and Steve Bannon, but not Trump himself.

Miller, who sported his trademark white cowboy hat, said he had a “very good” meeting with Bannon and Priebus but did not say if he was offered the agriculture secretary position.

Trump could be using the agriculture secretary nominee to diversify his Cabinet picks. Bonilla and former Texas A&M president Elsa Murano, who met with Trump on Thursday, are both Hispanic. Trump is also considering another Hispanic, former California Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado, for the post.

Bonilla downplayed the potential awkwardness of three Texans meeting with Trump or his advisers on the same day for the same job after his meeting.

“I didn’t ask him about other interviews or who else has been through here but I sense that they’re close to making a decision, they’ve got quite a few people, that’s my understanding,” Bonilla said.

Alex Daugherty: 202-383-6049, @alextdaugherty