Government

Sen. Chuck Grassley anticipates smooth Senate confirmation for Tom Vilsack as ag secretary

He and Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst criticize Georgia Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene

Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley (left) and Democrat Tom Vilsack discuss the importance of Congress passing the Unite
Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley (left) and Democrat Tom Vilsack discuss the importance of Congress passing the United States-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement at an August 2019 news conference in Des Moines. Grassley on Wednesday said he expects the U.S. Senate will quickly confirm Vilsack as the U.S. secretary of agriculture, a post Vilsack held for eight years in the Obama administration. (Rod Boshart/Gazette Des Moines Bureau)

Iowa’s Republican U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley said he anticipates a smooth Senate confirmation of former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack as President Joe Biden’s pick to again head the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“Pretty soon, I think he will be Secretary Vilsack again,” Grassley told reporters Wednesday.

Grassley introduced Vilsack at his confirmation hearing Tuesday before the Senate Agriculture Committee.

The committee advanced Vilsack’s nomination by voice vote just hours after conducting an overwhelmingly cordial hearing, setting up what Grassley expects will be a quick Senate confirmation — potentially as soon as this week.

Vilsack, a two-term Iowa Democratic governor, previously served as U.S. Secretary of Agriculture for eight years in the Obama administration.

“I believe he will be a voice of reason within the administration on the future of biofuels, and I’m sure he’s going to be a great advocate for American agriculture in foreign markets,” Grassley said.

“I think Secretary Vilsack will bring a good voice to the appreciation of the family farmer and spotlight their contributions to agriculture and what that great contribution does ... to make our society better.”

Greene criticism

Grassley also echoed remarks made Tuesday by U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, criticizing and condemning the views of freshman Republican U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia as pressure mounts to censure her and strip her of her committee assignments over her embrace of extremist conspiracy theories.

“She doesn’t represent the party,” Ernst told reporters Tuesday. “I don’t want her to be the face of our party. I think this is a great time for us to really talk about what we want to see in the upcoming years and continue to build. We don’t need people that are promoting violence or anything like that.”

Asked about Ernst’s remarks, Grassley echoed that Greene “shouldn’t be the face of the Republican Party ... and I wouldn’t disagree with anything Sen. Ernst has said.”

While not presuming to “speak for the wisdom or lack of wisdom of the people of Georgia” who voted for Greene, Grassley said, “But that’s not the way the Republican Party is.”

Greene was elected while openly supporting QAnon conspiracy theories, rooted in the baseless belief that former President Donald Trump was fighting deep state enemies and that top Democrats are part of a cabal of Satan-worshipping cannibals operating a child sex trafficking ring.

Since her election, social media posts and videos have surfaced showing Greene had expressed racist, anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim views, as well liking posts calling for violence against prominent Democrats. One post outlined an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory claiming a space laser started deadly wildfires in California.

Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell on Monday denounced Greene’s embrace of conspiracy theories as “loony lies” and a “cancer for the Republican Party.”

McConnell said anyone who has “suggested that perhaps no airplane hit the Pentagon on 9/11, that horrifying school shootings were pre-staged, and that the Clintons crashed JFK Jr.’s airplane, is not living in reality,”

Grassley echoed the sentiment.

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Thus far, GOP leaders in the House have been reluctant to criticize supporters of Greene, out of concern that they could alienate the former president’s most ardent voters.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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