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Wednesday, 16 December 2020

Biden picks Pete Buttigieg, 38, as transportation secretary - making him most senior gay official confirmed by Senate

 President-elect Joe Biden has chosen Pete Buttigieg, his former rival for the Democratic presidential nomination, to lead the U.S. Transportation Department, according to two people familiar with the matter.

Buttigieg, 38, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, who has never held federal office, would be the first LGBTQ person nominated to Biden's administration and, if confirmed, the first LGBTQ Cabinet secretary to be approved by the U.S. Senate.

A spokesman for Biden's transition team did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 


A representative for Buttigieg also did not respond to a request for comment.

Buttigieg had been rumored to land in several different spots in Biden's administration. 

As Transportation secretary, he would put to use his background in urban affairs by overseeing a sprawling federal agency that oversees U.S. highways, air travel and transit systems.

Bond: Joe Biden compared Pete Buttigieg to his late son Beau. Both were veterans. The 38-year-old former South Bend, IN, mayor is now poised to become transportation secretary

Bond: Joe Biden compared Pete Buttigieg to his late son Beau. Both were veterans. The 38-year-old former South Bend, IN, mayor is now poised to become transportation secretary

Relaxed: Biden has appeared largely unconcerned by liberal complaints about appointments to his administration, preferring to reward those who demonstrated loyalty to his campaign when it was struggling to build support.

Relaxed: Biden has appeared largely unconcerned by liberal complaints about appointments to his administration, preferring to reward those who demonstrated loyalty to his campaign when it was struggling to build support.

Biden is expected to choose former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm as secretary of energy in his administration, according to two people familiar with the decision.

Granholm, 61, was Michigan's first female governor, serving two terms in the battleground state, from 2003 to 2011. She worked with Biden, who was vice president under former President Barack Obama, on the 2009 bailout of automobile manufacturers General Motors Co and Chrysler .

Despite concerns from some auto workers, she supported efforts to build advanced battery plants for electric cars in Michigan. She also pushed through a modest energy standard that required a portion of the state's energy be generated by renewable sources.

If confirmed by the Senate, Granholm is expected to play a role in boosting advanced batteries, energy efficiency, and electricity generation from renewable and nuclear power as Biden makes curbing climate change one of the pillars of his administration.

Buttigieg was surprisingly competitive during the Democratic Party primary, winning the first-in-the-nation caucuses in Iowa, showing formidable fundraising might and enjoying massive popularity on social media.

With his presidential campaign, he became the first openly gay man to become - however briefly - a leading presidential candidate. He has been married to his husband, Chasten, since 2018. 

Biden is expected to choose former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm as secretary of energy in his administration

Biden is expected to choose former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm as secretary of energy in his administration

Once Biden took control of the race after winning the South Carolina primary in February, Buttigieg quickly dropped out and endorsed him, helping Biden consolidate the support of the moderate, establishment wing of the party.

He became a valued Biden supporter on television in the election´s final weeks.

Biden has compared the 38-year-old Buttigieg to his late son, Beau.

'To me it's the highest compliment I can give any man or woman. And, like Beau, he has a backbone like a ramrod,' Biden said during the March event, as Buttigieg stood behind him, bowing his head.

'I promise you, over your lifetime, you´re going to end up seeing a hell of a lot more of Pete than you are of me.' 

Despite being viewed as a rising star within the party, Buttigieg's potential nomination to a Cabinet post has been opposed by a number of progressive groups and Black leaders who have criticized his record on civil rights.

During the Democratic primary, Buttigieg faced fierce criticism from African-American activists, who argued he did not do enough as mayor to battle systemic racism in South Bend and help Black residents share in the city's economic revitalization. Buttigieg has long disputed that critique.

On a call with reporters on Tuesday, Jordan Giger, a Black Lives Matter leader in South Bend, called Buttigieg 'completely unqualified' for a Cabinet-level position.

Biden has appeared largely unconcerned by liberal complaints about appointments to his administration, preferring to reward those who demonstrated loyalty to his campaign when it was struggling to build support.

Buttigieg's nomination is also in line with Biden's stated commitment to diversity in the Cabinet.  


History-making: Richard Grenell held an acting cabinet role as Trump's director of national intelligence, making him the first openly gay cabinet member, but Trump did not nominate him to the role permamently

History-making: Richard Grenell held an acting cabinet role as Trump's director of national intelligence, making him the first openly gay cabinet member, but Trump did not nominate him to the role permamently

Infrastructure spending can be a bipartisan issue, and President Donald Trump spent years promising to push a major bill through Congress that never materialized. Instead his administration moved to soften carbon emissions standards that Biden's team will likely work to undo as part of the broader commitment to slowing global warming.

The once most frequently mentioned early pick to head the Transportation Department, President Barack Obama's former chief of staff and ex-Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, sparked strong pushback from top progressive activists. 

Emanuel, also a former congressman, helped oversee the Obama administration's distribution of tens of billions of dollars in transportation spending as part of a massive stimulus bill approved following the financial crisis - but now seems unlikely to take any position in Biden's administration.

His chances faded after progressives and civil rights leaders were very critical of Emanuel's handling of the high-profile police shooting death of Laquan McDonald, a Black teenager killed by a white officer, during his time as Chicago's mayor. 

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