The Senate agriculture committee approved former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue to serve as the 31st secretary of agriculture Thursday, sending President Trump’s nominee to the Senate floor for confirmation.
Perdue cleared the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry on a voice vote with only Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-New York, voicing opposition to the former governor’s appointment to lead the U.S. Department of Agriculture. As rational for her opposition vote, she said Perdue once supported work requirements for some food stamp recipients.
The nearly unanimous committee vote sets Perdue for his final confirmation vote by the full Senate, which will likely occur either next week or after the Easter recess. Ag committee members stepped off the Senate floor Thursday morning for the business meeting on the Perdue nomination. It took about 90 seconds.
Sen. David Perdue, R-GA, did not vote because the nominee is his first cousin. Sen. Pat Roberts, R-KS, joked about the vote that “could have been unanimous!” He chairs the ag committee, which is one of the last bastions of bipartisanship left in Washington D.C.
Perdue is expected to win easy Senate confirmation as well, which might lead to agreement for a quick vote. Six former U.S. secretaries of agriculture and almost 700 major agricultural organizations representing almost all the producer community have endorsed Perdue.
A handful of groups oppose Perdue’s nomination including Friends of the East, Center for Biological Diversity, Center for Food Safety, and Food & Water Watch. They refer to themselves as an “environmental and food advocacy coalition.” They are also known for opposing agricultural interests on various fronts.
Tom Vilsack, who served as President Obama’s Secretary of Agriculture for eight years, stepped down 76 days ago. Like Perdue, Vilsack was governor of a large agricultural state, Iowa, who came to the job with some criticism of his ties to “big agriculture.”
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