A Senate panel on January 27 easily advanced President Joe Biden’s nomination of Pete Buttigieg to be transportation secretary, setting up a final confirmation vote for a key role in Biden’s push to rebuild the nation’s infrastructure and confront climate change.
The Senate Commerce Committee approved the nomination of Buttigieg, the 39-year-old former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, on a 21-3 vote.
Should the full Senate vote in favor of Buttigieg’s nomination, he would be the first openly gay person, and one of the youngest, to be confirmed for a cabinet post.
Biden has been urging the Senate, where Democrats hold a slim majority, to move quickly on his Cabinet picks, given the current COVID-19 crisis. The president has also pledged an ambitious agenda of job growth, fighting climate change, and promoting racial equity.
Senator Maria Cantwell, the panel’s incoming Democratic chair, praised Buttigieg’s credentials before the vote Wednesday and urged quick confirmation so he can get to work on COVID-19 safety in transportation. “He understands what all of us have to deal with on transportation and infrastructure,” Cantwell said.
With the transportation sector, and particularly car emissions, being a top contributor to global warming in the United States, Buttigieg, whom Biden praised as bringing “a new voice,” is expected to play an important role in the climate agenda. Advocates hope his public stature and loyal following from 2020 campaign will help win over lawmakers and push through broad infrastructure changes long unachievable on Capitol Hill.
Buttigieg, in a tweet, thanked the members of the Commerce Committee for “their vote of confidence in me.” He said he looked forward to teaming up with members of the committee “as we get to work on infrastructure and building our economy back better.’’
At his confirmation hearing, Buttigieg received bipartisan praise as he pledged an immediate focus on transportation safety while pointing to a “generational’’ opportunity to help remake how people travel.
As examples, he pledged to help put in place new federal automotive fuel economy standards to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, promote quicker development of self-driving cars, and push the use of electric vehicles by adding a half-million charging stations nationwide.
Republican senators during his hearing signaled future battles ahead over the cost and scope of updating the nation’s roads and bridges, rails, and airports—a broad goal that eluded former President Donald Trump over the last four years. Senators also said they looked forward to many discussions with Buttigieg.
Biden has said he will unveil the full details of his infrastructure plan next month.
This article appears in the February 2021 edition of OutSmart magazine.