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Sanders votes against Biden USDA nominee Vilsack

Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersBiden sparks bipartisan backlash on Afghanistan withdrawal  Why does Bernie Sanders want to quash Elon Musk's dreams? Congress can protect sacred Oak Flat in Arizona from mining project MORE (I-Vt.) on Tuesday voted against Tom VilsackTom VilsackUSDA: Farm-to-school programs help schools serve healthier meals OVERNIGHT MONEY: House poised to pass debt-ceiling bill MORE to lead the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), making him the first senator who caucuses with the Democrats to vote against a Biden Cabinet nominee.

Sanders joined six Republicans in opposing Vilsack, who ran the agency for all eight years of the Obama administration.

“I like Tom and I’ve known him for years. I think we need somebody a little bit more vigorous in terms of protecting family farms and taking on corporate agriculture,” Sanders told reporters after the vote. “I think he’ll be fine, but not as strong as I would like."

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The Senate confirmed Vilsack in a 92-7 vote. Sanders joined GOP Sens. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzCruz raises .3 million in first quarter of 2021 Boehner says he voted for Trump, didn't push back on election claims because he's retired Boehner: Trump's claims of stolen election a 'sad moment in American history' MORE (Texas), Josh HawleyJoshua (Josh) David HawleyBiden sparks bipartisan backlash on Afghanistan withdrawal  Cruz raises .3 million in first quarter of 2021 Exclusive: GOP senators seek FBI investigation into Biden Pentagon nominee MORE (Mo.), Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulRepublicans need to stop Joe Biden's progressive assault on America Fauci fatigue sets in as top doc sows doubt in vaccine effectiveness Republican legislators target private sector election grants MORE (Ky.), Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioJon Stewart accuses VA of being 'an obstacle' to burn pits medical care Family policy that could appeal to the right and the left Exclusive: GOP senators seek FBI investigation into Biden Pentagon nominee MORE (Fla.), Rick Scott (Fla.) and Dan SullivanDaniel Scott SullivanCongress must address the toxic exposure our veterans have endured GOP lawmakers ask Biden administration for guidance on reopening cruise industry Alaska's other GOP senator says he'll back Murkowski for reelection MORE (Alaska) in voting against the nominee.

Progressives have pushed back on Vilsack's nomination because they felt he was too aligned with major agricultural corporations during his previous stint as USDA chief. More recently, Vilsack has been president of the dairy lobby group the U.S. Dairy Export Council.

Vilsack’s work as a lobbyist also raised concerns among progressives, many of whom wanted restrictions on former lobbyists working in the Biden White House. The U.S. Dairy Export Council is a major industry lobbying group and Vilsack previously worked as a registered lobbyist for the law firm Dorsey & Whitney.

“I opposed his confirmation today because at a time when corporate consolidation of agriculture is rampant and family farms are being decimated, we need a secretary who is prepared to vigorously take on corporate power in the industry,” Sanders said in a statement. 

“I heard from many family farmers in Vermont and around the country who feel that is not what Tom did when he last served in this job," the senator added.

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Sanders fought against a bill Vilsack was behind in 2016, which required the labeling of genetically engineered food but was less strict than a similar state law in Vermont. Obama signed the measure in July 2016, effectively nullifying Vermont’s statute.

Biden passed up Rep. Marcia FudgeMarcia FudgeWorking for lasting change Nina Turner touts herself as 'coalition builder' in House bid Nina Turner raises .6 million in first quarter for Ohio congressional bid MORE (D-Ohio) for the USDA post. Fudge was backed by a number of progressive groups and has been a key advocate for food banks and food insecurity programs.

Fudge is Biden’s nominee to run the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

— Updated at 4:24 p.m.