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SonnyWatch: Cabinet nominee backlog leaves Perdue at the end of the line

WASHINGTON -- Former Gov. Sonny Perdue was the last Cabinet pick announced by the Trump White House. The late timing may mean the Republican's nomination to lead the Department of Agriculture may be among the last of the senior positions considered by the U.S. Senate.

Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., the leader of the Senate Agriculture Committee, has been anxious to get Perdue's one and only confirmation hearing on the calendar. But a backlog of FBI background checks, as well as ugly fights in the Senate over some of Trump's more contentious Cabinet picks, is having a domino effect on other nominees in the queue such as Perdue, Roberts said.

"He’d make a great secretary," Roberts said Wednesday. "We just need to get him on board.”



Perdue allies wanted the confirmation hearing to occur this week, before the Senate departs for its week-long President's Day recess. But the Agriculture Committee is required under its rules to wait for all paperwork to be filed before scheduling, and leaders said they are still waiting for information from the feds.


In the meantime, Perdue continues to crisscross the U.S. Capitol for private meetings with party leaders and individual senators.

After being spotted by one of your Insiders Wednesday morning, Perdue, flanked by several aides, was tight-lipped about his meetings beyond saying they have been progressing "very well." "A great information exchange," he said with a smile.

Perdue has been using a room in the office of his first cousin, Georgia U.S. Sen. David Perdue, as his home base while making the rounds on Capitol Hill.

Sen. Perdue said his cousin has been adjusting to life in Washington -- the two are temporarily bunking together during the transition period -- but that meeting with other senators has come easily for the former governor.

"He loves it, actually," Perdue said in a recent interview. "He’s a more natural schmoozer than I am and he makes friends easily."

Since the Senate has been consumed with the vetting of other Cabinet nominees, such as budget and labor picks Mick Mulvaney and Andy Puzder, Perdue so far has been able to fly under the radar largely undetected and without much controversy.

But Politico reported Wednesday afternoon Puzder's troubles were beginning to concern Perdue about his own status:

Agriculture Department hopeful Sonny Perdue has grown nervous about his own prospects in light of Puzder’s troubles — unable to get access to Priebus for reassurances that the former Georgia governor's nomination is still backed by the administration, according to a source familiar with the matter.

Read more: 

For Sonny and David Perdue, trucking venture crashed

Sonny Perdue’s Capitol Hill tour begins in earnest

A regional battle is brewing over Perdue’s ag chief bid

Key senators see a blank slate on Sonny

Sonny Perdue on his ag role: A ‘great opportunity for America’

Donald Trump: Sonny Perdue will do ‘great things’ in ag role

The aide who helped Sonny Perdue land a Cabinet spot

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About the Author

Tamar Hallerman is The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Washington correspondent, covering Congress, federal agencies and other government activities that impact Georgia.