Confirmation hearings continue this week in the U.S. Senate for President Joe Biden’s top administration picks.
Although senators voted overwhelmingly to confirm Tom Vilsack to lead the Department of Agriculture on Tuesday, he did not receive the support of one prominent progressive in the chamber.
“I’ve known him for years”
The 92-7 vote marked the first time any Biden nominee failed to attract unanimous support from the 50 reliable Democratic votes in the evenly divided Senate when Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) vote against the pick.
Sanders, who was a formidable rival to Biden during the Democratic presidential primary race, raised his concern that Vilsack would not be strong enough in his stance against farming corporations, which he denounced for pushing out smaller family farms in recent decades.
“I like Tom and I’ve known him for years,” Sanders said in a statement to reporters after his vote to oppose his nomination. “I think we need somebody a little bit more vigorous in terms of protecting family farms and taking on corporate agriculture.”
Acknowledging Vilsak’s confirmation, the senator added: “I think he’ll be fine, but not as strong as I would like.”
The incoming agriculture secretary encountered some opposition from other progressives in the past, notably for his lobbying work with the U.S. Dairy Export Council and his alignment with corporate agriculture companies during his stint as USDA chief.
Other confirmation news
When it came to voting for his confirmation, however, all leftist detractors but Sanders decided to put their objections aside and vote in his favor, making him the ninth Biden nominee to be confirmed by the Senate.
The president picked Vilsack over Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH), who enjoyed more support among progressives.
In particular, Fudge had experience with food banks and food insecurity programs that many on the left saw as useful. Biden had other plans for her, though, nominating her to become the next head of Housing and Urban Development.
Fudge’s nomination is still awaiting confirmation.
In other Biden cabinet news, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra was the subject of a contentious hearing on Tuesday, which included questions about his perceived lack of experience within the realm he would be tasked to handle if confirmed as Health and Human Services secretary.