White House seeks Perdue confirmation by Presidents’ Day
February 3, 2017
The White House is urging the Senate to confirm Sonny Perdue, President Donald Trump's nominee for agriculture secretary, before Congress leaves for the week-long Presidents' Day break this month, a Trump transition team source said.
Presidents' Day is Feb. 20, but if the Senate follows its usual schedule, it is likely to go out of session on Feb. 17 or even late Feb. 16.
The main reason for urging the Senate to act as quickly as possible is to provide leadership at U.S. Department of Agriculture, the source said, but a confirmation before the Senate leaves for the break would also allow Perdue to speak at the USDA Agricultural Outlook Forum, which will be held Feb. 23 and 24 in Arlington, Va. That conference usually attracts a large audience, including foreigners, in the first year of a presidential term.
If Perdue is not confirmed before the forum, the administration will have "representation" at the event, the source said.
If Perdue does not get confirmed before the break, the "drop dead" date for confirmation is Feb. 28, when Trump is scheduled to give the state-of-the-union speech to a joint session of Congress, the source added.
The Senate Agriculture Committee has not scheduled a confirmation hearing for Perdue.
The transition team source said that Perdue's vetting is relatively easy because he "had his life investigated" when he ran for governor of Georgia. His financial disclosure information needed only to be updated for the period since he left office in 2011, the source noted.
But a Senate Agriculture Committee spokeswoman said the committee has not yet received documents about Perdue and cannot schedule the hearing until they are received.
Perdue has been working out of the office of his cousin, Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., to schedule individual meetings with senators, and he has also met with agricultural leaders and been having policy briefings, the source added.
Perdue has met with 15 senators individually and had casual encounters with others, the source said.
The transition team provided a list of the senators with whom Perdue has met in the order they have taken place:
▪ Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark.
▪ Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss.
▪ Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D.
▪ Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb.
▪ Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.
▪ Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont.
▪ Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb.
▪ Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore.
▪ Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.
▪ Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan.
▪ Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind.
▪ Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa
▪ Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska
▪ Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev.
▪ Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont.
▪ Sen. Robert Casey, D-Pa.
After his meeting with Perdue, Hoeven said the two discussed the importance of building a coalition to pass a new farm bill and maintaining strong crop insurance options for farmers and ranchers.
"Sonny and I worked together as governors for eight years and he has a solid reputation for working in a bipartisan way," said Hoeven. "He also understands the importance of our agriculture industry to our economy and knows the challenges facing producers and rural communities."
"I look forward to working together to craft a good farm bill that supports all of our nation's producers."
Cochran said, "I had a great meeting with Gov. Perdue. He has an impressive understanding of American agriculture and agribusiness. I appreciate his knowledge of the issues that are important to Mississippi as part of the overall process of growing the food and fiber that sustains our country and the world. I am hopeful that the Senate will act favorably on his nomination as soon as possible."