Senate confirms Pete Buttigieg as Biden’s transportation secretary

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Senate on Tuesday voted to confirm Pete Buttigieg’s nomination to serve as President Joe Biden’s transportation secretary, making him the first openly gay person to be confirmed to a Cabinet post.

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The confirmation came in a 86-13 vote after the former South Bend, Indiana, mayor garnered bipartisan praise at his confirmation hearing last week, The Associated Press reported.

“Mr. Buttigieg is an impressive public servant who has already earned the respect and confidence of both sides,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said Monday, according to the AP. “I look forward to confirming his nomination.”

Sen. Todd Young, R-Ind., praised the former Democratic presidential hopeful for his work in Indiana, including his military service, and said he’d “look forward to working with him … to maintain and improve the infrastructure that drives the American economy,” according to the Indianapolis Star.

As transportation secretary, Buttigieg will oversee a department with 55,000 employees and a budget of tens of billions of dollars. He’ll be tasked with implementing Biden’s infrastructure plan, and has pledged to quickly get to work promoting safety and restoring consumer trust in America’s transportation networks, as airlines, buses, city subway systems and Amtrak reel from plummeting ridership during the coronavirus pandemic.

Buttigieg is also expected to promote Biden’s climate initiatives, helping to oversee stronger automotive fuel economy standards to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and support the president’s push later this year on a sweeping $2 trillion climate and infrastructure plan.

“I’m honored and humbled by today’s vote in the Senate--and ready to get to work,” Buttigieg said in a Twitter post following Tuesday’s vote.

Biden announced Buttigieg as his pick for transportation secretary in December, calling him “a leader, patriot, and problem solver” who “speaks to the best of who we are as a nation.”

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Buttigieg served as mayor of South Bend for eight years before launching a campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2019. He exited the race after struggling to appeal to Black voters and losing the South Carolina primary to Biden.

Buttigieg now points to his experience as a mayor and on the campaign trail as valuable to his “bottom-up” approach to improving transportation. During his confirmation hearing, he described initiating a “smart streets” program to make South Bend’s downtown more pedestrian- and bicyclist-friendly, while spurring hundreds of millions of dollars in economic investment.

Before becoming South Bend’s mayor, Buttigieg served as an intelligence officer in the U.S. Navy Reserve. He was deployed to Afghanistan in 2014 and eventually earned the rank of lieutenant.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.