Senate confirms Buttigieg as Transportation secretary

The Senate on Tuesday confirmed Pete Buttigieg to lead the Transportation Department.

The Senate voted 86-13 to approve Buttigieg’s nomination. He is the 19th Transportation secretary and the fifth member of President Biden’s Cabinet to be confirmed by the Senate. He is also the first openly gay Senate-confirmed Cabinet member in U.S. history.    

He is the former mayor of South Bend, Ind., and a Navy veteran. He ran against Biden in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary before dropping out of the race and throwing his support to the now-president.

Senators who voted against Buttigieg’s nomination were Republicans Tom Cotton (Ark.), Ted Cruz (Texas), Bill Cassidy (La.), Roger Marshall (Kan.), Rick Scott (Fla.), Tommy Tuberville (Ala.), Richard Shelby (Ala.), Josh Hawley (Mo.), Marsha Blackburn (Tenn.), Marco Rubio (Fla.), Tim Scott (S.C.), Bill Hagerty (Tenn.), and James Lankford (Okla.).

The Senate already confirmed Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

The Senate Commerce Committee advanced Buttigieg’s nomination last week through a broad bipartisan vote, with only three Republican senators voting against it.

He is set to take over an agency overseeing an industry devastated by the coronavirus pandemic. Biden has also emphasized the need for a bold infrastructure package, which Buttigieg has highlighted.

The former mayor defended Biden’s executive order to revoke a permit for the Keystone XL pipeline when questioned earlier this month. He also walked back comments that left the door open to raising the gas tax to fund the Highway Trust Fund; a spokesperson said after the hearing that increasing the gas tax is not an option.

Transportation industry trade groups like the Airport Council and the Air Line Pilots Association applauded his confirmation on Tuesday and unions, including the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA and AFSCME, also welcomed him into his new role.

Buttigieg has quipped that he would be the second-biggest Amtrak enthusiast in the administration. Biden is an outspoken advocate for Amtrak and would regularly commute between Delaware on Washington, D.C., by train when he was a senator. 

When Biden formally introduced Buttigieg as his nominee for Transportation secretary in December, he called him “one of the smartest people you will ever meet.” 

Buttigieg is set to be the only millennial to serve in Biden’s Cabinet.

The Human Rights Campaign applauded Buttigieg’s historic nomination as the first openly LGBTQ Senate-confirmed Cabinet secretary.

“Let this important moment for our movement serve as a reminder to every LGBTQ young person: you too can serve your country in any capacity you earn the qualifications to hold,” President Alphonso David said in a statement.

The LGBTQ Victory Institute also noted in a statement that Buttigieg shattered a political barrier on Tuesday.

“Pete shattered a centuries-old political barrier with overwhelming bipartisan support and that paves the way for more LGBTQ Americans to pursue high-profile appointments,” said CEO Annise Parker.

“Pete testifying at his confirmation hearing, with his husband looking on, will be among the powerful images that define this unprecedented political moment and will be remembered as a milestone in America’s move toward social justice,” she said.

Buttigieg spoke in December about the history-making move as the first openly gay Senate-confirmed Cabinet member. Rick Grenell, who served as the acting director of national intelligence from February to May under President Trump, was the first openly LGBTQ Cabinet secretary but was not confirmed by the Senate. 

Buttigieg recalled watching the confirmation hearing of James Hormel, the first openly gay man to represent the U.S. as an ambassador, under President Clinton. Senate Republicans at the time worked to block Hormel’s nomination, but he was appointed to be U.S. ambassador to Luxembourg through a recess appointment.

Updated at 1:32 p.m.

Tags Antony Blinken Avril Haines biden administration Bill Cassidy Cabinet confirmation Donald Trump James Lankford Janet Yellen Josh Hawley Lloyd Austin Marco Rubio Marsha Blackburn Pete Buttigieg Richard Shelby Roger Marshall Ted Cruz Tim Scott Tom Cotton Transportation Secretary

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