Biden Transition News, Secretary of Transportation, January 21, 2021

CABINET HEARING: Pete Buttigieg, Secretary of Transportation

January 21, 2021

Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation

Senators questioned Buttigieg about pressing transportation concerns including aviation safety, infrastructure reform, and COVID-19 during the hearing. Senators from both sides of the aisle praised Buttigieg’s credentials.

 

ISSUES RAISED

  • Transportation Safety – Senators questioned Buttigieg about his commitment to aviation safety and how he will deal with it as head of the Department of Transportation (DOT). Ranking Member Maria Cantwell (D-WA) asked Buttigieg if he will make safety reforms at the FAA a priority. Buttigieg said he will. Ranking Member Cantwell asked Buttigieg if he will make changes in personnel if necessary and Buttigieg said he would. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) noted her appreciation for Buttigieg’s comments on transportation safety and asked him to explain his safety priorities and comment on bridge safety. Buttigieg said bridge safety is critical and has too often gone overlooked, adding that it has a tangible impact on people’s lives and needs to be treated with the proper care.
  • Infrastructure Reform – Senators repeatedly asked Buttigieg about infrastructure reform and his own priorities. Chairman Wicker asked Buttigieg to elaborate on the Biden administration’s infrastructure plan. Buttigieg said this is an opportunity to literally do the building part work of build better. He added this means making sure that every part of our transportation infrastructure gets investments. Buttigieg said many transportation services need a more sustainable and predictable means of funding. John Thune (R-SD) raised concerns about the cost of infrastructure reform and the deficit. He asked Buttigieg how he would approach improvements in freight rail policy as part of infrastructure reform. Buttigieg said freight rail policy needs to be looked at and that he intends to make it a top priority.
  • COVID-19 –Multiple Senators asked Buttigieg about his commitment to the health and safety of workers in the transportation industry given the massive losses during the COVID-19 crisis. Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) asked Buttigieg if he will work with Congress to implement programs which help provide a safe workplace for transportation workers, but which also ensures that travel industries do not go bankrupt. Buttigieg said he knows these industries have taken a blow and is looking forward to supporting them as best he can.

TAKEAWAY

It appears that Buttigieg is well on this way to being confirmed as the next Secretary of Transportation. Senators seemed generally pleased with his responses to all their questions and noted that his experience as a former Mayor will bring an important perspective to the position. Buttigieg touted his commitment to upholding the agencies’ primary mission of ensuring the safety of all American travelers and workers. Additionally, he made it clear that the agency will play a critical role in promoting and implementing President Biden’s vision of a robust infrastructure package. This package will not only enhance safety but will provide economic stimulus by creating millions of good-paying jobs, revitalizing communities, and making America a leader in addressing climate change.

 

WHAT’S NEXT?

The hearing was extremely cordial and Buttigieg was well received by all the Senators on both sides of the aisle. Sen. Tester(D-MT) called his testimony “refreshing” and Sen. Wicker (R-MS) stated that it was “quite certain” that he would be confirmed. Following the hearing, a spokesperson did have to clarify that Buttigieg did not in fact support increasing the gas tax. A committee vote on his nomination could come as soon as next week and would likely move quickly to the floor for a vote of approval by the entire Senate.