Stimulus and a secretary on the way to USDA
Ryan McCrimmon, POLITICO
TWO KEY PIECES of President Joe Biden’s food and agriculture agenda start falling into place this week, from policy to personnel: The House is set to advance his coronavirus rescue package, and the Senate will vote on his nominee for Agriculture secretary, Tom Vilsack. Let’s zoom in on the latter.
Vilsack set to sail? The former USDA chief is expected to be confirmed by a comfortable margin on Tuesday after breezing through his confirmation hearing on Feb. 2. That would put him in office two months earlier than his predecessor, Sonny Perdue, who was confirmed on April 24, 2017.
But it’s a month later than Vilsack was confirmed his first time around — on Inauguration Day in 2009 — despite the Senate Agriculture Committee’s attempt to fast-track his nomination at the beginning of February, as we pointed out in POLITICO’s Transition Playbook.
Why it matters: Once Vilsack is sworn in, the department’s pandemic relief efforts can kick into high gear. The Biden administration has already taken executive action to expand food assistance, extend a moratorium on evictions under USDA rural housing programs, pause farm loan debt collection for struggling borrowers and deploy staff to help with vaccinations.
— But other efforts have been on ice without a secretary to sign off...