Mayor Pete confirmed as Secretary Buttigieg

Published: Feb. 2, 2021 at 2:52 PM EST

WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - One of President Joe Biden’s rivals in last year’s Democratic Primary now holds the keys to America’s infrastructure future.

Following an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote in the Senate, former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg officially takes the wheel overseeing America’s network of highways, railways, and ports.

“I believe we have a real chance to deliver for the American people,” he told senators at his confirmation hearing a couple of weeks ago.

Buttigieg is one of the youngest Senate-confirmed cabinet members in history and the first to be openly gay.

While he lacks a formal policy background in transportation, Senators praised his academic credentials and experience he gained as a mayor. “Our politics may differ, they may differ significantly in some respects,” said Sen. Todd Young just before voting to confirm Buttigieg, “but there is a mutual professional respect.”

During his confirmation hearing, Buttigieg emphasized safety and the need to connect physically and digitally stranded communities. He took heat for being open to raising the gas tax - a stance he would later reverse - and the Biden administration’s decision to halt a controversial oil pipeline.

“That is altogether out of step with what the American people want,” said Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas at the hearing as he raised concern about lost jobs and the potential for consumer to pay more on future energy bills.

Buttigieg argued the administration’s efforts to go green would create far more jobs than it erases.

Robert Puentes, president and C.E.O. of the Eno Center for Transportation -- a non-partisan think tank -- said much of Buttigieg’s talking points echo those of former transportation secretaries. But, he said the former mayor’s climate focus sets him apart.

“It’s clear that climate is going to be a major focus,” he said.

Puentes said Buttigieg will also be faced with several pressing challenges. Chief among them, he said the new secretary must find traction on Capitol Hill for a massive re-investment in infrastructure – and a way to boost public transit which has been financially-derailed by the pandemic.

“The Department of Transportation has their work cut out for them,” he said in summary.

The idea of pumping trillions of dollars into roads, bridges, and highways is widely popular on Capitol Hill, but few are prepared to lay out their own roadmap to pay for it.

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