Pete Buttigieg, the 2020 Democratic primary candidate and environmental advocate was confirmed Tuesday by the Senate to head the U.S. Department of Transportation, which oversees America’s airlines, buses, highways, and pipelines.
“I’m honored and humbled by today’s vote in the Senate—and ready to get to work,” the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, wrote on Twitter shortly after he was confirmed in an 86-13 vote.
At age of 39, Buttigieg is the youngest member of President Joe Biden’s Cabinet. He is also the first openly gay person to run any Cabinet department.
Buttigieg is facing a number of issues on his first day as Transportation Secretary, mainly fulfilling Biden’s campaign promises on infrastructure improvement. Biden, along his campaign trail, vowed to spend $2 trillion on infrastructure, including $50 billion on repairing roads, bridges, and highways in the first year of his presidency. He also promised to provide every U.S. city with 100,000 or more residents with “high-quality, zero-emissions” public transportation.
During his confirmation hearing, Buttigieg told the Senate Commerce Committee that he would support the Biden administration’s ambitious investment in infrastructure, with the hopes of bolstering the economic recovery from the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus pandemic-related shutdowns.
“This is our opportunity to literally do the building part in ‘Build Back Better,'” he said, referring to Biden’s campaign slogan for the 2020 election. He pledged to increase connectivity between urban and rural areas, promote autonomous and electric vehicle technologies, repair aging transit systems, improve rail and aviation safety, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by overhauling bus transportation.
An outspoken advocate of climate policies, Buttigieg is expected to play a significant role in the Biden administration’s environmental effort. During his confirmation hearing, he said that climate concerns would be a “central feature” of any infrastructure package under the administration.
“The president has made it very clear that he expects all of us to work on delivering a new climate vision, and it’s going to take a whole-of-government approach. And certainly DOT has a big part of this,” Buttigieg said, referring to the Department of Transportation.
Buttigieg was preceded by Elaine Chao, who became the first member of former President Donald Trump’s Cabinet to resign following the violence that took place at the U.S. Capitol amid the certification of the Electoral College votes. Chao’s tenure is marked by her focus on infrastructure investment to better connect rural and urban communities. Her department funded the Gateway Program, which aims to upgrade the outdated rail bridges and tunnels between New York and New Jersey.