Sanders votes against Biden USDA nominee Vilsack

Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersGOP sees debt ceiling as its leverage against Biden Democrats brace for slog on Biden's spending plan To break the corporate tax logjam, tax overinflated CEO pay 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 CruzTrio of Senate Republicans urges Supreme Court to overrule Roe v. Wade Overnight Defense: US launches another airstrike in Somalia | Amendment to expand Pentagon recusal period added to NDAA | No. 2 State Dept. official to lead nuclear talks with Russia No. 2 State Dept. official to lead nuclear talks with Russia next week MORE (Texas), Josh HawleyJoshua (Josh) David HawleyTrio of Senate Republicans urges Supreme Court to overrule Roe v. Wade Atlanta-area spa shootings suspect set to be arraigned Noem to travel to South Carolina for early voting event MORE (Mo.), Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulGOP Rep. Cawthorn says he wants to 'prosecute' Fauci Writer: Fauci, Paul clash shouldn't distract from probe into COVID-19 origins S.E. Cupp: 'The politicization of science and health safety has inarguably cost lives' MORE (Ky.), Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioGOP lawmakers request Cuba meeting with Biden Bipartisan congressional commission urges IOC to postpone, relocate Beijing Games Hillicon Valley: Democrats introduce bill to hold platforms accountable for misinformation during health crises | Website outages hit Olympics, Amazon and major banks MORE (Fla.), Rick Scott (Fla.) and Dan SullivanDaniel Scott SullivanSenate confirms Biden pick for No. 2 role at Interior Concerns grow over China's Taiwan plans China conducts amphibious landing drill near Taiwan after senators' visit 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 FudgeBiden celebrates anniversary of Americans with Disabilities Act Shontel Brown gaining ground against Nina Turner in Ohio: poll Sanders to campaign for Turner in Ohio 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.