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Buttigieg to tout Transportation's role in rebuilding economy

Buttigieg to tout Transportation's role in rebuilding economy
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Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegSenate confirms former Michigan governor Granholm as Energy secretary Senate confirms Vilsack as Agriculture secretary Biden to detail 'roadmap' for partnership with Canada in meeting with Trudeau MORE, President BidenJoe BidenBiden 'disappointed' in Senate parliamentarian ruling but 'respects' decision Taylor Swift celebrates House passage of Equality Act Donald Trump Jr. calls Bruce Springsteen's dropped charges 'liberal privilege' MORE’s nominee to run the Transportation Department, will tout the agency’s ambitious infrastructure agenda as an opportunity to build jobs and help a flagging economy recover from the coronavirus pandemic during a Senate hearing on Thursday.

Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Ind., and Democratic White House candidate, will testify in front of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee as he seeks confirmation to his post.

“We … have a lot of work to do to improve the infrastructure in this country, a mission that will not only keep more people safe, but also grow our economy as we look to the future,” Buttigieg will say, according to prepared remarks obtained by The Hill. 

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“Now is the time, and we have a real chance to deliver for the American people. We need to build our economy back, better than ever, and the Department of Transportation can play a central role in this.” 

Buttigieg, who would become the first openly gay person confirmed by the Senate to a Cabinet post, will also look to ensure that a Transportation Department that he helms would prioritize safety for travelers, particularly as concerns grow about the worsening spread of COVID-19.

Biden has already signed an executive order mandating mask-wearing on all interstate travel.

“Safety is the foundation of the department’s mission, and it takes on new meaning amid this pandemic. We must ensure all of our transportation systems — from aviation to public transit, to our railways, roads, ports, waterways, and pipelines — are managed safely during this critical period, as we work to defeat the virus,” Buttigieg will say.

Just one Biden Cabinet official — Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines — has been confirmed, a lower number of top aides than several of Biden’s predecessors had confirmed on their first days in office.

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Buttigieg is planning to take over the Transportation Department with a long to-do list as the White House is expected to want to go big on an infrastructure plan while also recognizing the challenges brought by the coronavirus. 

The administration has not laid out the specifics for its infrastructure plan yet, though Biden cast it as a priority while on the campaign trail. The Transportation Department is also anticipated to play a crucial role in moving forward the White House’s efforts to bring carbon emissions to net-zero by 2050 and address racial inequities.

The Transportation Department will also oversee the return of the Boeing 737 Max jet after two high-profile crashes set off a wave of safety concerns.

“Good transportation policy can play no less a role than making possible the American Dream, getting people and goods to where they need to be,” Buttigieg will say. “But I also recognize that at their worst, misguided policies and missed opportunities in transportation can reinforce racial and economic inequality, by dividing or isolating neighborhoods and undermining government’s basic role of empowering Americans to thrive.” 

Buttigieg faced criticism during his presidential campaign that he lacked the adequate experience to run for the White House, but he intends to rebut any similar criticism in his confirmation hearing. He will point to his tenure as mayor of South Bend and also his service in the war in Afghanistan as evidence that he is ready for the task ahead. 

“As a mayor from the industrial Midwest, I will bring a bottom-up perspective on transportation programs and funding. If confirmed, I look forward to working with our partners at the state, local, territorial, and tribal levels to find solutions to our infrastructure issues while we also prepare for the future of transportation at a time of great change,” he will say.