Senate confirms Chao as DOT secretary

By Jami Jones, Land Line managing editor | 1/31/2017

The Senate has confirmed Elaine Chao to lead the U.S. Department of Transportation with a 93-6 vote in favor of the confirmation on Tuesday.

Chao, who is married to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, was one of the least controversial Cabinet nominations. She cruised through the confirmation process, gathering praise from Republicans and Democrats throughout.

The vote before the full Senate went as D.C. insiders predicted, with only six Democrats voting against her confirmation. They were Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y.; Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-Vt.; Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.; Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J.; Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y.; and Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore. McConnell voted “present” during the roll call vote.

Chao fielded questions from members of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee on Jan. 11. Chao told committee members that safety is her top priority for the agency, which oversees all modes of transportation. In tackling the crumbling infrastructure and the Highway Trust Fund, Chao touted a stance that was very pro public-private partnerships in her various responses.

She was referred to the Senate for confirmation following a unanimous voice vote. Sen. John Thune, the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee ranking member, praised Chao following the Senate vote.

“Elaine Chao has the experience, ability, and now the bipartisan backing of the Senate to address our nation’s transportation and infrastructure challenges,” Thune said in a press release. “Her unwavering commitment to public service will be an asset to the Department of Transportation and the new administration. As a new era begins, I look forward to working with her on an agenda to boost innovation and our country’s economic success.”

House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster, R-Pa., also had high praise for Chao following her confirmation.

“I congratulate Elaine Chao on her confirmation as the next Secretary of the United States Department of Transportation. I look forward to getting to work with her, the new administration, and my colleagues in Congress on the many issues before the Committee this year, including critical FAA reforms and smart, responsible investments in our nation’s infrastructure network,” he said in an official statement. “We have a tremendous opportunity to improve our transportation systems, reduce regulatory burdens, encourage innovation and private-public partnerships, strengthen our competitiveness, and build a 21st century infrastructure for America.”

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association is ready to go to work with Chao and her team.

“Our new secretary’s previous experience should assist in successfully bringing an infrastructure bill from discussion to reality,” said OOIDA Executive Vice President Todd Spencer following the committee vote to send her nomination to the Senate floor. “We look forward to addressing all the vital issues involving small-business truckers and highway safety regulations as well.”

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