Sanders votes against Biden USDA nominee Vilsack

Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersStudy: Test detects signs of dementia at least six months earlier than standard method The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Uber - Omicron tests vaccines; Bob Dole dies at 98 Democrats see Christmas goal slipping away 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 CruzGOP senators introduce bill targeting Palestinian 'martyr payments' Bob Dole: heroic, prickly and effective Democrats see Christmas goal slipping away MORE (Texas), Josh HawleyJoshua (Josh) David HawleyBob Dole: heroic, prickly and effective To counter China, the Senate must confirm US ambassadors Facebook unblocks Rittenhouse searches MORE (Mo.), Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulRand Paul: Chris Cuomo firing 'a small step toward CNN regaining any credibility' GOP anger with Fauci rises Congress's goal in December: Avoid shutdown and default MORE (Ky.), Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioGOP senators introduce bill targeting Palestinian 'martyr payments' House to vote on Uyghur bill amid diplomatic boycott of Beijing Olympics This week: Congress poised to go into December overtime MORE (Fla.), Rick Scott (Fla.) and Dan SullivanDaniel Scott SullivanGOP resistance to Biden FCC nominee could endanger board's Democratic majority Man charged with threatening Alaska senators pleads not guilty China conducts combat readiness drill after US congressional delegation arrives in Taiwan 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 FudgeButtigieg has high name recognition, favorability rating in Biden Cabinet: survey Biden, top officials spread out to promote infrastructure package Black Caucus eager to see BBB cross finish line in House 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.