President-elect Joe Biden wants to put Pete Buttigieg in charge of Transportation Department

President-elect Joe Biden wants to put Pete Buttigieg in charge of Transportation Department

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President-elect Joe Biden has chosen former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg as his transportation secretary, according to The Associated Press.

Three people confirmed the news to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because they didn’t want to publicly preempt the president-elect’s announcement.

Buttigieg, who competed with Biden for the nomination before dropping out and endorsing him, would be the first openly gay Cabinet secretary if confirmed by the Senate. 

“Pete’s nomination is a new milestone in a decades-long effort to ensure LGBTQ people are represented throughout our government – and its impact will reverberate well-beyond the department he will lead,” Annise Parker, head of the LGBTQ Victory Institute, said in a statement. Parker said the appointment would fulfill one of the goals her group has for the new administration.

The Transportation Department will have a central role in shaping and carrying out Biden’s infrastructure plans. The department distributes hundreds of billions of dollars in federal highway funding and regulates aviation, railroads and busing. As part of his proposal to shift to clean energy, Biden has proposed placing 500,000 charging stations along highways and changing federal vehicles to electric power.

Mona Mohib, a federal policy adviser with McGuireWoods Consulting who previously served as director of policy and communications at the Democratic Governors Association, warned that Biden’s transportation plans are aspirational because they depend on reversing President Donald Trump’s tax cut for corporations and individuals earning more than $400,000 per year.

“As such, one should ultimately see this plan as a wish list,” Mohib said.

To curb the spread of COVID-19, Biden has said that on his first day in office he will require passengers to wear masks on interstate transportation such as planes, trains and buses, a move the Trump administration rejected.

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Buttigieg was once near the front of the pack for the Democratic nomination, edging out Sen. Bernie Sanders in the Iowa caucuses by a tiny margin. He regularly polled ahead of sitting governors, senators and other long-established members of the Democratic Party. 

The former South Bend mayor also made history as the first openly gay man to win delegates in the race for the nomination of a major political party. Buttigieg’s husband, Chasten, frequently appeared on the campaign trail to crowds of enthusiastic supporters.

Although Buttigieg may become the first openly gay person confirmed to a Cabinet position, Rick Grenell, who had served as both an ambassador and acting Director of National Intelligence for President Donald Trump, was the first appointed openly gay man to serve at a Cabinet-level position. Grenell was not formally confirmed by the Senate.

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When Buttigieg launched his presidential campaign, he spoke from the former Studebaker auto-manufacturing campus which had decades before been South Bend’s economic engine.

Buttigieg used the plant, which is being repurposed into a mixed-use technology campus, as an example of how it’s time to “walk away from the politics of the past and toward something totally different.”

After endorsing Biden, Buttigieg returned to the plant to address the Democratic National Convention.

“I trust Joe Biden and Kamala Harris to guide us toward that better future, because I’ve seen up close, their empathy and their capacity,” he said.

Buttigieg campaigned heavily for Biden while also supporting candidates further down the ballot through his political action committee.

“There’s just no one out there who’s doing more to help Joe Biden, our ticket win, than Mayor Pete,” Ron Klain, Biden’s incoming chief-of-staff, told Indiana Democrats before the election.

Buttigieg was the nation’s youngest mayor of a city South Bend’s size or larger when he took office in 2012. He envisioned his hometown as a “beta city,” the perfect size to use his data-driven background with the consulting firm McKinsey to test big ideas. That included the “smart sewers” that saved South Bend an estimated hundreds of millions of dollars and became a template for a product now sold to cities all over the world.

In 2018, South Bend beat out more than 300 other cities for a Bloomberg Mayor’s challenge grant to expand a ride share service the city piloted.

Officials from private entities which chose South Bend – because of Buttigieg – as a place to pilot new initiatives, said he created a culture of innovation and was a “wonderful talent attractor.”

Pete Buttigieg waits for the start of the Vice Presidential debate.

Mark Muro, policy director of the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program, told USA TODAY last year that Buttigieg was not only “at the forefront of younger, more data-oriented, tech-oriented mayors,” but is also noteworthy for how he connects the technical to the human element and conveys big ideas.

Buttigieg, however, was criticized by some of his redevelopment efforts, including an aggressive effort to demolish or repair substandard housing. 

Jorden Giger, a Black Lives Matter South Bend founder, said Tuesday Buttigieg “would continue his record of hurting Black communities” if he becomes transportation secretary. 

Former Indiana Sen. Joe Donnelly, who is from South Bend, was among those who praised the selection. He also took a dig at the Trump administration’s failure to produce a long-touted infrastructure deal.

“It looks like we can finally have that Infrastructure week we’ve heard about for the last four years!” Donnelly tweeted.


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