The Senate Commerce Committee Wednesday morning approved 21-3 Peter "Pete" Buttigieg to become the next U.S. transportation secretary, clearing the nomination for full Senate approval. His nomination received strong bipartisan support with Roger Wicker (R-Mississippi), who continued to preside as chairman for the meeting, calling Buttigieg “impressive” and his Democrat counterpart in line to become chair, Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Washington), saying she enthusiastically endorsed the nomination.
Cantwell also stressed the importance of getting a transportation secretary in place, given the challenges the sector has faced during the Covid-19 pandemic and the need to work on transportation issues in the next Covid-19 relief package. She added that she plans on discussing with President Biden and Buttigieg, once he takes the secretary role, how they could prioritize vaccines for transportation workers who move food, citing reports about the challenges of food shipment. “I want to make sure that our transportation infrastructure workers are prioritized to get these vaccines and we can continue to move product through the U.S.,” Cantwell said.
The committee vote comes less than a week after the panel held a confirmation hearing on Buttigieg. He received a positive reception, although he did have some discussion with Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) about the possibility of increasing the gas tax for automobiles to shore up shortages in the Highway Trust Fund.
Buttigieg, who served two terms as mayor of South Bend, Indiana, had run for president but dropped out on March 1, 2020, and then endorsed Biden. He is a Harvard University graduate and was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University. While serving in the Navy Reserve, he achieved the rank of lieutenant and had taken leave from his mayoral duties to serve seven months in the war in Afghanistan. He also has worked on several Democrat campaigns, including the presidential campaign of former Senator and Secretary of State John Kerry.