December 16, 2020
By Joseph Ax
(Reuters) – President-elect Joe Biden on Wednesday plans to formally introduce former rival Pete Buttigieg as his pick for U.S. secretary of transportation, adding to what is shaping up to be the most diverse Cabinet in U.S. history.
If confirmed by the Senate, the 38-year-old former South Bend, Indiana, mayor would be the first openly gay Cabinet secretary.
The nomination caps the political rise of Buttigieg, who emerged from obscurity to mount a surprisingly robust campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination. A military veteran who served in Afghanistan, Buttigieg is in the vanguard of the next generation of Democratic politicians and is widely seen as a future White House contender.
When Buttigieg ended his campaign and endorsed Biden in March, Biden offered him high praise, saying the Indiana native reminded him of his late son, Beau.
As transportation secretary, Buttigieg would oversee a sprawling federal agency that regulates the nation’s airlines, transit systems and interstate highways. He would also play a central role in Biden’s proposed infrastructure and environmental initiatives, including plans to add 500,000 charging stations nationwide for electric vehicles.
The outline of Biden’s climate change team is growing clearer; sources told Reuters on Tuesday that Biden intends to make Gina McCarthy, the former Environmental Protection Agency head, his domestic climate “czar” and former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm his energy secretary.
Biden has methodically assembled his administration despite President Donald Trump’s refusal to concede the election. Trump, a Republican, has repeatedly alleged, contrary to evidence, that the Nov. 3 results were tainted by widespread fraud.
Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday became the most senior member of his party to acknowledge Biden’s win.
Biden, who served as vice president under the nation’s first Black president, Barack Obama, has vowed to build a government that reflects the country’s diversity.
In addition to Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, who will be the first Black person, Asian-American and woman to serve as the nation’s No. 2, Biden has named multiple women and people of color to Cabinet-level positions, including Janet Yellen, who would be the first female treasury secretary; Lloyd Austin, who would be the first Black defense secretary; and Alejandro Mayorkas, who would be the first immigrant and first Latino to head the homeland security department.
U.S. Representative Deb Haaland of New Mexico is Biden’s leading choice to head the Interior Department, according to three sources familiar with the decision process; she would be the first Native American to lead a Cabinet agency if nominated and confirmed.
Though Buttigieg is seen as a rising star within the party, some progressive groups and Black activists criticized him during the campaign for not doing enough as South Bend mayor to address racial inequality.
Biden and Harris will introduce Buttigieg in Biden’s hometown of Wilmington, Delaware, on Wednesday. The president-elect and vice president-elect plan to meet virtually with U.S. governors later in the day.
(Reporting by Joseph Ax, additional reporting by Jarrett Renshaw and David Shepardson; Editing by Scott Malone, Robert Birsel)
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