With Congress back from recess, we have returned to a drumbeat of congressional votes on the Trump agenda. Rhode Island senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse voted against former Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue, Trump’s pick for agriculture secretary. While nine members of the Democratic caucus in the Senate joined Reed and Whitehouse in voting no, most Democrats voted yes. Four other New England Senators voted no, including Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey of Massachusetts, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, and Bernie Sanders of Vermont.
A staunch conservative, Perdue is known for his opposition to science and his nutty views on agriculture and the environment. A noted climate skeptic, he famously wrote that “liberals have lost all credibility when it comes to climate science because their arguments have become so ridiculous and so obviously disconnected from reality.” More famously, he also once tried to end a drought by literally holding a prayer for rain outside the state capitol.
This vote against Perdue follows a consistent pattern for our Senators: They have been unusually strong progressive champions on agriculture policy.
In 2013, Whitehouse and Reed were the only two Democrats who voted against a farm bill that would have cut $4 billion from hunger assistance programs. Their votes were crucial to sparking resistance to these proposed food stamp cuts. Working with Connecticut Democrat Rosa De Lauro, Rhode Island’s own David Cicilline led the floor fight in the House against these cuts. Ultimately, while the opposition to these cuts did not prevail in Congress, it inspired a number of Governors, including Lincoln Chafee, to use a procedural maneuver to block these cuts from coming into effect.
If you would like to follow along with their votes, I have been tracking our Senators’ votes on Trump’s nominees on this spreadsheet.