While the U.S. Senate overwhelmingly confirmed former U.S. Agriculture Sec. Tom Vilsack returning to his old post on Tuesday, Florida’s two U.S. senators–Republicans Marco Rubio and Rick Scott–opposed the nomination.
Rubio and Scott joined five other senators, including U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz, R-Texas., Josh Hawley, R-Mo., and Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., in opposing the nomination as 92 senators voted to confirm Vilsack.
Both of Florida’s senators pointed to Vilsack’s efforts during the Obama administration to normalize relations with Cuba.
“Supporting a nominee directly involved in the Obama administration’s policy of concessions to Havana’s tyrants would be an unconscionable mistake,” Rubio said. “Secretary Vilsack’s erroneous belief that developing trade and business relationships with Cuba’s despotic regime would magically lead to the island’s liberalization and democratization is misguided and dangerous to our national security interests. Let me be clear: the Cuban regime has violated the basic human rights of the Cuban people for decades. There is no crop, nor trade agreement, between Cuba’s rulers and the U.S. that would stop the regime’s egregious abuses from continuing. Our next Secretary of Agriculture should uphold American values rather than appeasing international foes.”
“While I appreciate Tom Vilsack’s commitment to supporting Florida’s growers and agriculture industry, I cannot support any nominee that encouraged Obama-era appeasement and open-trade policies with Cuba. We’ve made significant progress to hold the Cuban regime accountable over the past four years and deny them sources of revenue. Under no circumstances can the United States go back to supporting this murderous regime. We know appeasement policies and open-trade do nothing to help the Cuban people in their fight for freedom and democracy and that any revenue to the Cuban regime goes to enrich corrupt communist oppressors. Cuba is the root of the evil we see in Latin America and we must continue to fight until we see a new day of freedom in our hemisphere,” Scott said.
U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., the chairwoman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, and U.S. Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., the top Republican committee backed Vilsack and weighed in after he cleared the Senate.
“After an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote, Secretary Vilsack can now get to work and help our farmers, families, and rural communities,” said Stabenow. “I look forward to partnering with him to address the challenges for our farmers and rural communities related to the COVID-19 pandemic, feed American families in need, and create new markets while curbing the climate crisis.”
“Secretary Vilsack has a track record of working with Congress, and today’s strong bipartisan vote expresses the Senate’s confidence that he will continue that approach moving forward. Congress and the administration must work together to address the many pressing matters facing the ag community and rural America, particularly the need to provide swift relief to those affected by the ongoing pandemic. Building a good relationship with Secretary Vilsack will help us achieve our mutual goals while ensuring that the needs of farmers and ranchers are always at the forefront of USDA’s agenda,” said Boozman.
Reach Kevin Derby at firstname.lastname@example.org.