Biden Taps Former Rival Pete Buttigieg for Transportation Secretary

President-elect Joe Biden has chosen Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, to be his transportation secretary, a person familiar with the matter said Tuesday.

Buttigieg, a former candidate for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, is the first of Biden’s primary opponents after Vice President-elect Kamala Harris to be offered a spot in the new administration.

Buttigieg was one of the most high-profile rivals to Biden during the Democratic primaries, narrowly winning the Iowa caucuses. He later endorsed Biden after dropping out of the race.

If approved by the Senate, Buttigieg would become the first openly gay person confirmed to serve on a president’s cabinet, Alphonso David, president of the Human Rights Campaign said Tuesday. The civil rights group that focuses on LGBTQ issues called the pick “historic” in a press release.

“Breaking the barrier of having an LGBTQ person serve in a cabinet-level position is important,” David said in an interview shortly before the pick became public. “It can’t be in 2020 or 2021 that we don’t have an LGBTQ person who’s been nominated and qualified to serve in that position.”

Buttigieg, a military veteran andHarvard University graduate, was mayor of South Bend for two terms, leaving office last January.

The secretary of transportation oversees a budget of almost $90 billion, the majority of which pays for building roads, bridges and other highway infrastructure. The DOT also manages multiple agencies that regulate aviation, railroads, trucking and pipeline safety.

The position could be pivotal in any attempts by Biden to expand infrastructure spending, as some Democrats are seeking.

Neil Bradley, vice president of theU.S. Chamber of Commerce, said onBloomberg Television that the pick suggests that the administration will take infrastructure very seriously.

“You know, mayors have been some of the best advocates for infrastructure,” Bradley said. “Infrastructure is a long overdue priority, you know. The incoming Biden team tells us they’re going to make that a priority in the first six months of next year, and I think this is confirmation that they are indeed are going to put a lot of resources and the right personnel behind it.”

Beth Osborne, director of Transportation for America, a Washington-based non-profit that advocates for expansive transportation policies, touted Buttigieg’s work on improving sidewalks as South Bend mayor.

“I am so excited to hear that @JoeBiden has nominated @PeteButtigieg as the next secretary of transportation,” Osborne tweeted. “My team at @completestreets has worked with him over his time as mayor and have really appreciated his commitment to Complete Streets.”

The department also is among the federal agencies that could play a significant role in the coronavirus pandemic. The Trump administration has so far not set any health-related rules for travel on flights, railroads and transit systems. In addition, the department can help struggling airlines and transit systems recover from dramatic drops in passengers.

Buttigieg received a Rhodes Scholarship to attend theUniversity of Oxford in England. In addition to working as a consultant toMcKinsey & Co., he served in the Navy Reserve as an intelligence officer.

Biden has faced pressure from LGBTQ groups to appoint representatives of their communities to the cabinet.

“While your administration is on track to be the most diverse in American history, we ask that you continue your commitment to diversity by ensuring LGBTQ+ professionals are included in your Cabinet and throughout your administration,” a group of nine lawmakers who are members of the Congressional LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus wrote in a recent public letter to Biden.

— With assistance by Matt Shirley

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