Perdue nomination as ag secretary clears one more hurdle

Source: By Philip Brasher, Agri-Pulse • Posted: Thursday, April 6, 2017

WASHINGTON, April 4, 2017 – Hopes are growing that Sonny Perdue can win confirmation as agriculture secretary this week after a Democrat removed a hold on his nomination.

New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez was concerned about Perdue’s views on policy toward Cuba but was reassured after a personal call from the nominee Tuesday afternoon, said Senate Agriculture Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan.

“Bob just told me that he was releasing his hold. We may yet seek unanimous consent to move ahead with his nomination,” Roberts said.

Roberts is trying to get Democratic agreement for an abbreviated period of debate on the former Georgia governor this week, or simply a quick voice vote.

Menendez was the last known obstacle but other Democrats could block Perdue from being considered under an expedited procedure.

Congress is on recess for two weeks after this week, so Senate action on Perdue could fall to the end of April or even May if Roberts can’t get a vote this week.

Roberts said Menendez and Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., both had concerns about Perdue’s remarks at his confirmation hearing March 23. Perdue expressed support for easing financial restrictions on U.S. agricultural exports with Cuba. Cubans are currently required to pay in cash up front.

Roberts suggested any legislative action on the Cuba financing restrictions was unlikely anyway. “We’ve got a lot on our plate as opposed to that,” he said.

The leaders of the House Agriculture Committee, Chairman Mike Conaway, R-Texas, and ranking member Collin Peterson, D-Minn., sent a letter to the Senate leadership on Tuesday appealing for switt confirmation of Perdue. The letter says USDA and U.S. agriculture face multiple challenges that Perdue needs to address.