Pete Buttigieg has become the first openly gay cabinet member after the US Senate approved him as Transportation Secretary on Tuesday, ABC News reports.
Buttigieg, former South Bend Mayor and runner for the Democrat presidential ticket, has been tasked with implementing President Biden’s bold plan to rebuild the nation’s infrastructure and tackle climate change.
Attracting 86 votes in the Senate, Buttigieg’s approval will see him take on a key role in the White House and taking on the transportation portfolio with its 55,000 employees and billions in budget funding.
“I’m honoured and humbled by today’s vote in the Senate, and ready to get to work @USDOT,” Mr Buttigieg wrote on Twitter.
Buttigieg is expected to play an important role in promoting President Biden’s sweeping green initiatives, helping to oversee stronger automotive fuel economy standards to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and support the President’s push later this year on a $US2 trillion climate and infrastructure plan.
That plan will be focused on rebuilding roads and bridges and expanding zero-emission mass transit while boosting electric vehicle infrastructure, including building 500,000 charging stations over the next decade.
Prior to the vote, Democratic Senator Maria Cantwell, the incoming chair of the Senate Commerce Committee, reflected on Buttigieg’s energy and fresh approach.
“We all know the nominee as Mayor Pete, a man who basically came onto the national stage as a Midwest mayor, who had lots of enthusiasm for making investments in America’s future,” she said.
“He’s a young, energetic mayor who is going to help us usher in a new era of transportation,” Cantwell said.
Voting against Buttigieg were Republican senators: Ted Cruz (Texas) and Rick Scott (Florida), two possible presidential contenders in 2024, as well as Marsha Blackburn (Tennessee).
Blackburn raised her concerns on Twitter at the time, posting: “The needs of our counties and cities should be prioritised over the environmental wishes of the Biden administration. I am concerned about the responses from Transportation Sec Nominee Mayor @PeteButtigieg.”