Finance

Senate committee approves Commerce nominee

Greg Nash

The Senate Commerce Committee approved Wilbur Ross’s nomination to be Secretary of Commerce on Tuesday morning, speeding him toward an easy confirmation.

Ross was approved after he coasted through a tame confirmation hearing last Wednesday. Tuesday’s positive recommendation means the full Senate will likely vote to confirm Ross within days.

{mosads}Ross’s hearing was more informational than adversarial. He faced few tough questions from senators and spent most of the nearly four-hour hearing explaining his views on trade, corporate taxes, infrastructure and the role he’ll play advancing those issues in the Trump administration.

Ross said the administration prefers bilateral trade deals over pacts with multiple nations, sees tariffs as a useful negotiating tool and backs public spending on infrastructure and transportation.

The few tough questions Ross faced pose little threat to his confirmation. Senators didn’t press Ross when he admitted to unknowingly hiring an undocumented household worker. Ross said he fired the worker when he checked his household staff for documentation after Trump selected him for Commerce secretary.

Democratic Sens. Richard Blumenthal (Conn.) and Tom Udall (N.M.) asked how Ross would handle potential conflicts of interest between U.S. businesses or potential trade partners and Trump’s sprawling business empire. Ross said he wouldn’t tolerate anyone seeking to use ties to Trump to influence federal policy.

Ross, 79, served as an economic adviser to Trump during the campaign.

He made a fortune rehabilitating American steel companies, and later fashioned his corporate turnaround experience into a private equity investment company. He’s expected to be a significant player in trade negotiations and the vote comes one day after Trump signed an executive order announcing his plan to withdraw the U.S. from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal.

Tags Richard Blumenthal Tom Udall
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