Biden to nominate Pete Buttigieg as transportation secretary

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Pete Buttigieg. Reuters
  • President-elect Joe Biden will select former presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg to lead the Department of Transportation, Reuters, the Associated Press, and The Washington Post reported.
  • If confirmed, Buttigieg will become the first openly gay Cabinet secretary in US history to be approved by the upper chamber.
  • In nominating Buttigieg to the role, Biden seeks to put the 38-year-old former South Bend, Indiana, mayor in charge of a sprawling federal agency with about 58,000 employees.
  • Buttigieg, who ran against Biden in the Democratic primaries, won the Iowa caucuses in February and came in second place in the New Hampshire primary before losing momentum and suspending his campaign.
  • See everyone Biden has nominated for his Cabinet so far.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

President-elect Joe Biden will nominate Pete Buttigieg to lead the Department of Transportation, Reuters, the Associated Press, and The Washington Post reported on Tuesday.

If he is confirmed by the Senate, Buttigieg will become the first openly gay Cabinet secretary in US history to be approved by the upper chamber.

In nominating Buttigieg, Biden seeks to put the 38-year-old former South Bend, Indiana, mayor and 2020 Democratic presidential candidate in charge of a sprawling federal agency with about 58,000 employees. The agency is tasked with planning and coordinating federal transportation projects, along with overseeing transportation safety regulations throughout the country.

The president-elect’s transition officially announced Buttigieg’s nomination on Tuesday evening, praising his record in public office.

“Jobs, infrastructure, equity, and climate all come together at the DOT, the site of some of our most ambitious plans to build back better,” Biden said. “I trust Mayor Pete to lead this work with focus, decency, and a bold vision — he will bring people together to get big things done.”

Vice President-elect Kamala Harris added: “An innovative problem solver and trailblazing public servant, Mayor Pete is deeply committed to bringing people together and upgrading our transportation system in a way that serves Americans of all backgrounds and communities of every size — urban and rural — across our country.”

In a Tuesday evening tweet, Buttigieg publicly confirmed the nomination.

“This is a moment of tremendous opportunity — to create jobs, meet the climate challenge, and enhance equity for all,” he wrote. “I’m honoured that the President-elect has asked me to serve our nation as Secretary of Transportation.”

Buttigieg, a South Bend native, graduated magna cum laude from Harvard University in 2004. He was awarded the Rhodes Scholarship and studied at Oxford University, receiving a bachelor’s degree in philosophy, politics, and economics.

In 2011, Buttigieg was first elected mayor of South Bend, a Midwestern city of nearly 102,000 residents best known for its close connection with the University of Notre Dame. From 2009 to 2017, Buttigieg served as an intelligence officer in the US Navy Reserve, where he was deployed to Afghanistan in 2014, temporarily handing over management of the city to a deputy mayor during his seven-month absence.

Buttigieg was easily reelected as mayor in 2015, winning with more than 80 per cent of the vote.

In June 2018, he married his partner, Chasten Glezman, at the Episcopal Cathedral of St. James in South Bend.

In April 2019, Buttigieg formally announced his presidential campaign for the 2020 Democratic nomination, seeking to represent a new generation of leadership in the Democratic Party. He faced an array of well-known party figures during his campaign, including Biden, Sen. Kamala Harris of California, who’s now the vice president-elect, Sens. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, and former Housing and Urban Development secretary Julián Castro, among others.

However, Buttigieg became a breakout star of the campaign — he won the Iowa caucus in February 2020 and finished a close second to Sanders in the New Hampshire primary. His momentum was blunted with Biden’s overwhelming victory in the South Carolina Democratic Primary later that month, though, as his electoral weakness with Black voters, a crucial part of the Democratic coalition, proved incredibly difficult to improve on in just a matter of weeks.

Sensing a difficult path forward for the nomination, Buttigieg suspended his presidential campaign in March and quickly endorsed Biden.

After Buttigieg withdrew from the presidential race, Biden spoke of the former mayor in glowing terms, saying he had “unlimited potential” and even comparing him to his late son, Beau, who died of brain cancer in 2015.

“I know that may not mean much to most people, but to me, it’s the highest compliment I can give to any man or woman,” Biden said in March 2020. “Like Beau, he has a backbone like a ramrod.”

It is widely expected that Buttigieg will run for president again at some point in the future, and running a federal agency would afford the Democratic politician with valuable management experience.

On December 13, CNN first reported that Buttigieg was being considered for the transportation role, with other candidates that reportedly included Mayor Eric Garcetti of Los Angeles, Gov. Gina Raimondo of Rhode Island, and former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

The current transportation secretary is Elaine Chao, a former labour secretary under then-President George W. Bush from 2001 to 2009. Chao, who is married to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, has served in the role since January 2017.

Buttigieg’s name also emerged for other Biden administration positions, including commerce secretary; US ambassador to the United Nations, a position that ultimately went to the veteran diplomat Linda Thomas-Greenfield; and secretary of veterans affairs, which Biden filled with the nomination of the former White House chief of staff Denis McDonough.