Democrats Convince Biden to Let Trump Appointee Keep His Job

Democratic senators have convinced the White House not to replace David Beasley, who was appointed by former President Donald Trump in 2017, as the head of the World Food Program (WFP).

According to a new report from Axios, a number of bipartisan senators intervened in the Biden administration's plan to replace Beasley, asking the White House to extend Beasley's five-year term instead.

"I've seen David Beasley in action around the world, making a difference, both raising funds for the World Food Program from countries in the Gulf and in Europe," Democratic Senator Chris Coons, a key Biden ally, said to Axios. "I urged that he strongly be considered for an extension because of what I'd seen of his effectiveness in the world and in Congress."

The Biden administration confirmed to the outlet that Beasley's term has been extended until April 2023.

The decision to keep Beasley—who reportedly had little support inside the Biden White House—comes as the WFP addresses global hunger amid the war in Ukraine. Russia's invasion has not only presented millions of Ukrainians with food shortages but also resulted in a lack of wheat—a massive export for Ukraine—on an international level.

David Beasley Biden Trump
David Beasley, who heads the World Food Program, will remain in his position until April of next year, the White House said. Above, Beasley attends a news conference about an updated aid appeal for South Sudan on May 15, 2017, at the United Nations office in Geneva. Fabrice Coffrini/AFP

Beasley, a former Republican governor of South Carolina, has warned that up to 323 million people are "marching toward starvation," and across 43 countries, 49 million people were "knocking on famine's door," the Associated Press reported.

Now, with soaring food prices, the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), which released its latest report last week, is warning that global hunger will only increase.

"This year's food security crisis is about access," Boubaker Ben Belhassen, the director of the FAO's Markets and Trade Division, told VOA News. "Next year, because of the expected or the lack of availability and the higher costs of imports, in particular for fertilizer and fuel, the concern could be about lack of availability—in other words, lack of food."

"From our estimation, we see that depending on how much this leads in terms of deficit or gap or reduction in export availability for those with commodities from both Ukraine and Russia, it could lead in anywhere between 11 to 19 million more hungry people. But that is chronic hunger for 2022-2023," Ben Belhassen said.

The executive director role held by Beasley is one of several international positions that the U.S. gets to fill, but because the length of the five-year term does not align with the U.S. presidency, the United Nations would need the consent of the White House to keep on a leader that is oftentimes nominated by the other party.

"It's a fat job," Republican Senator James Inhofe was quoted by Axios. "There's a lot of pressure on the administration" to replace the WFP head with one of their own.

Luckily in Beasley's case, he had built a strong rapport in Congress for his fundraising efforts and willingness to travel to war zones, including the Ukrainian port of Odessa— where efforts are focused on helping operations continue to support the flow of Ukrainian wheat and cooking oil, Axios added.

"I made pretty clear to the administration you have somebody who has credibility on the Hill," Republican Senator Lindsey Graham told Axios. "And you'd be making a huge mistake to try to replace him because he has a lot of support on both sides of the aisle. Between Ukraine and famine, it's a s**tshow out there."