The Hill reports that President-elect Obama is "considering Reps. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) and Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (D-S.D.) for the USDA post. His transition team declined to comment on Cabinet speculation."
The news of Rep. Peterson's consideration has some Democratic activists up in arms. A DailyKos post titled "Who was Lieberman before Lieberman was Lieberman?" notes that Peterson has often been a thorn in the side of House Democrats, much like Joe Lieberman in the Senate.
The DailyKos post cites a 2005 article in which Peterson was "upbraided" by Democratic leadership for not being a "team player":
Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) was harshly upbraided Monday night by House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) and other members of the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee for failing to be a "team player," signaling that the Democratic leadership intention to impose a strict regimen of party discipline in the 109th Congress.
Party leaders dressed down Peterson as he sought to persuade the 50 members of the steering committee to make him the ranking member on the House Agriculture Committee. Hoyer and Miller directed much their ire on Peterson's Medicare vote, when Peterson was one of 16 Democrats to side with Republicans in the tightest roll call in recent memory. It is a strong indication that Democratic leaders will insist upon party unity as Republicans plan to reform Social Security, the other massive entitlement program that has been a mainstay of the Democratic coalition.
Peterson was one of five Democrats to vote for the House GOP drug bill in 2000 and one of eight to vote for the Republican Medicare bill in 2002.
He stands next in seniority on the agricultural panel to replace former Rep. Charles Stenholm (D-Texas), who was defeated in November. But questions about Peterson's party loyalty, both his voting record and his lackadaisical fundraising, have forestalled what would have been an otherwise routine promotion to be the Democrats' top lawmaker on issues affecting rural -- and often red -- America.
"There is no doubt that there's a lot of resentment about how Collin Peterson has conducted himself in his time in Congress. It's more than just the Medicare vote," a senior Democratic aide said.
A Democratic leadership aide said: "Members were upset when they learned that [Rep. F. Allen] Boyd [D-Fla.] co-sponsored a Republican Social Security bill and are tired of some members of the caucus not pulling their weight. And the Steering Committee reflected that."
By making Peterson sweat out his committee position, Democratic leaders hoped to send a clear message to their caucus that they would demand a higher degree of party loyalty in the coming Congress, several leadership aides said.
"Why not just not pay your dues, buck the party on important votes and hold press conferences with Republicans to make your election a cakewalk and then still get your committee?" another Democratic leadership aide said.