On Wednesday morning Pete Buttigieg made history when his nomination by President Joe Biden for U.S.. Secretary of Transportation was approved by a Senate committee. Buttigieg was the first out LGBTQ+ person to be sworn in for a confirmation hearing to a U.S.. cabinet post last week, a hearing where a member of the committee lauded him for his performance. He now becomes the first out LGBTQ+ nominee to pass that committee.
A former candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, who made history as the first out candidate to win the Iowa caucus, Buttigieg had a stand out showing in committee, landing bipartisan support.
"You have put on a clinic on how a nominee should work and act. You haven't avoided the questions," Senator Jon Tester told Buttigieg during the proceedings. "You've been straightforward. And you know what the hell you're talking about. And that's pretty damn refreshing."
"For all the other nominees who are out there, you need to look at what's happened in the last two hours," he continued later. Unsurprisingly, Senator Ted Cruz, who followed Tester, went on the attack in one of the very few moments in which the two and a half-hour hearing seemed to turn adversarial. There, Cruz grilled Buttigieg on Biden's decision to cancel the Keystone XL pipeline permit which resulted in a loss of union jobs but Buttigieg, ever cool under pressure, underscored its importance in climate action and pointed out that it would be offset by jobs created as we address climate change.
During the hearing before the Commerce Committee, Buttigieg reaffirmed his support for mass transit, complete streets, and electric cars. He stated a desire to reduce the country's transport-related greenhouse gas emissions and lowering the national roadway death toll. He also spoke about equality in transportation and reiterated his love of trains.
Senator Tammy Baldwin started her questioning with a chummy reference to Buttigieg's husband Chasten, who he had introduced and thanked in his introduction. She then began to ask Buttigieg about his commitment to integrating "Buy American" ideals throughout his programs — this is likely to spur the economy which is in the midst of a downturn as a result of the pandemic. Buttigieg said he would. He passed through the Committee with a vote of 21 - 3.
Republican Senators Ted Cruz, Marsha Blackburn, and Rick Scott voted against advancing the nomination.
"I look forward to seeing [Pete Buttigieg] confirmed by the full Senate and working with him in his new role as Secretary of Transportation," committee chair Senator Roger Wicker said in a statement. "Transportation issues historically have been addressed on a bipartisan basis and I expect to continue that practice with Mr. Buttigieg."
Buttigieg's nomination is expected to be up for a vote of the full Senate later this week where he is very likely to be confirmed. The confirmation will be historic.
Republican Richard Grennell was the Acting Director of Intelligence during the Trump administration — the role is not a part of the Cabinet established by the Constitution but in Trump's administration, was a Cabinet-level role. He stepped into that position after being the U.S. ambassador to Germany. It was not permanent and he left the job in May 2020, having served only four months and participated in one Cabinet meeting. The role was not confirmed by the Senate.
This story will be updated following Buttigieg's confirmation.