By Baker Owens –
After weeks of waiting, President Trump’s pick for agriculture secretary, former Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue, got his hearing on Thursday. With Rep. David Scott (D- GA 13) and former Senator Saxby Chambliss (and former Agriculture Committee Chairman) at his side, Perdue got a warm welcome from Agriculture Committee Chairman Senator Pat Roberts (R- Kansas). Rep. Sanford Bishop (D- GA 2) was also present for the hearing offering his support.
Chambliss’ testimony focused on his long-time relationship with Perdue, including their campaigning together in 2002 as Chambliss ran for his first Senate election the same year Perdue ran for governor. “Sonny has been a leader in everything he’s been involved in doing. As a farmer, he was a leader in the field of agribusiness in our state. As a member of the state senate, he was elected by his peers to be the President Pro Tem of the senate. And as governor, he was chairman of the Republican Governors Association.”
Rep. Scott, after a subtle jab from Chairman Roberts thanking him for appearing before “the upper body”, said he was honored to have the opportunity to stand with his “dear friend” Perdue. “I’m here to explain to you that indeed Sonny Perdue is the right person at the right time to do the absolute best job.” During his time in the state senate, Scott was chairman of the Senate Rules Committee and worked closely with Perdue while he was President Pro Tem.
Scott wanted to be sure the record was set straight for Perdue and with that Scott faced the Confederate flag issue head on. This had been one area where some Democrat groups had hoped to hurt Perdue’s confirmation. He discussed how that issue developed in Georgia and what Perdue’s real role in it was. Scott spent a few minutes on the issue, praising the leadership of governors Zell Miller and Roy Barnes, as well as Perdue. Scott praised Perdue’s handling of the situation and how he maneuvered the issue to keep the Confederate flag out. Scott even called Perdue “our Joshua, that got us across the Jordan River” – meaning Moses’ successor who led the Israelites out of the wilderness.
As is often the case with confirmation hearings, despite Perdue’s bipartisan support from Georgia colleagues, both Democrat and Republican senators took some time to get in a few political hits during their questioning. The ranking Democrat on the Ag Committee, Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D- Michigan), laid out some of her concerns with the Trump administration’s proposed budget and its priorities. She asked whether Perdue had been consulted on the development of the Trump administration’s budget blueprint – “I had no input in the budget,” said Perdue. Perdue did express some of his own concerns with the budget.
Another ally who spoke in favor of Perdue’s confirmation also has a close relationship, actually related in fact. Georgia Senator David Perdue, Sonny’s cousin, spoke in favor of his kin and kept it fairly short. “Good luck, cuz.”