Grassley suggests moderate Democrats for next Agriculture secretary

Grassley suggests moderate Democrats for next Agriculture secretary
© Greg Nash

Sen. Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleyWoman allegedly abused by Nassar after he was reported to FBI: 'I should not be here' Democrat rips Justice for not appearing at US gymnastics hearing Senators denounce protest staged outside home of Justice Kavanaugh MORE (R-Iowa) suggested President-elect Joe BidenJoe BidenTrump endorses challenger in Michigan AG race On The Money: Democrats get to the hard part Health Care — GOP attorneys general warn of legal battle over Biden's vaccine mandate MORE should select a more moderate Midwestern Democrat as his next Agriculture secretary. 

“I realize this might hurt their chances but if Biden becomes pres he should select an Iowan or Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampProgressives prepare to launch counterattack in tax fight Business groups aim to divide Democrats on .5T spending bill On The Money: Powell signals Fed will soon cut stimulus MORE or [Rep.] Collin PetersonCollin Clark Peterson Progressives fight for leverage amid ever-slimming majority Six ways to visualize a divided America On The Trail: The political losers of 2020 MORE [D-Minn.] to be Ag Secretary. They’d be able to get things done for IA/Midwest farmers even w Democratic House & Republican Senate,” Grassley wrote on Twitter.

Both of those picks come from rural areas of the country with strong farming roots.

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Peterson, the longtime chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, just lost his reelection campaign after nearly 30 years in office. Heitkamp, a former one-term senator from North Dakota, lost reelection in 2018.

Though seemingly casting doubt on whether Biden would take office, Grassley’s comments point to tension in the ongoing transition process as progressives lobby the incoming administration to stay away from moderate Democrats.

Heitkamp, who worked on two farm bills during her time in office, has expressed interest in the job.

“Joe Biden has the opportunity to put together a Cabinet that reflects all parts of America, and I know what decision he makes is going to be the right one,” Heitkamp previously told The Hill.

“We all have to make America unified to work again, so I’m very, very excited about Joe Biden as our next president of the United States and for Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisStefanik in ad says Democrats want 'permanent election insurrection' Live coverage: California voters to decide Newsom's fate Florida woman faces five years in prison for threatening to kill Harris MORE as our next vice president.”

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Since leaving office, she formed the One Country Fund, a political action committee that seeks to bolster Democratic prospects in rural America.

Heitkamp could garner support among her former colleagues. But a coalition of more than 130 environmental, farm and justice groups sent a letter to the transition critiquing her for not having a stronger environmental record and for taking campaign contribution from large agribusiness.

Many of those same groups along with major unions have backed Rep. Marcia FudgeMarcia FudgeSanders goes back to 2016 playbook to sell .5T budget Activists detail legal fight against HUD for Philadelphia housing Photos of the Week: Rep. Cori Bush, Beirut clash and duck derby MORE (D-Ohio), touting her work on food assistance programs.

For his part, Peterson was one of the Democratic Caucus's more conservative members, voting in line with Second Amendment and anti-abortion interests. 

He’s been credited for working to bridge rural and urban lawmakers to pass previous farm bills.

“You can’t just pass a [farm] bill with farm representative votes. The farm and rural areas don't have enough votes. So you have to work hard to build a coalition that brings in suburban and urban votes as well,” Rob Larew, president of the National Farmers Union, previously told The Hill.