Transportation Secretary Chao is Confirmed and Sworn In

By Eric G Braun, Senior Writer, USRW

We have a new Secretary of Transportation, Road Warriors, a vital role in our industry. With an overwhelming nod of approval, the Senate confirmed Elaine Chao by a vote of 93-6. Such an easy, overwhelming vote is hard to come by these days in Washington.

Chao’s husband, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., was by her side as were many in their family.

Though cynics will look at this as some sort of nepotism, Chao won the job on her own merits. Chao was the 24th U.S. Secretary of Labor from 2001 to 2009, the only Asian Women to be given a Cabinet Position in our nation’s history. Chao was also the only member of President Bush’s cabinet that lasted the test of time, and served Bush and the nation for his entire Presidency.

Chao has the resume to go with a leadership position. Besides being Labor Secretary, Chao has served as President and CEO of United Way, a post that led to questionable spending that put the charitable organizations accountability in the negative spotlight. Chao also served as a director of the Peace Corps, Deputy Secretary of Transportation, Chairwoman of the Maritime Commission, and White House Fellow. Chao also has financial experience as a Vice President of Bank America and a leadership role with Citicorp Bank.

In a sense of bi-partisanship evidenced by the vote, Democrat Senator Bill Nelson praised Chao, “I think we need Secretary Chao, as someone who has the experience and who has common sense and that will be in the position to offer level-headed, good experience-based advice to the government going forward," Nelson said.

Republican Senator John Thune of South Dakota, head of the committee vetting Chao, concurred with Nelsons remarks. “It would be hard to come up with a more qualified nominee than Secretary Chao for this important role,” Thune said. “Secretary Chao has repeatedly proven her willingness to roll up her sleeves to address the challenges facing our nation.”

Chao was sworn in by Vice President Pence, who praised Chao in his remarks. “President Trump and I are appreciative that once again you have answered the call to serve America and advance the interests of the people of this country,” Pence said. “Your leadership and your experience will serve us well as the Secretary of Transportation, overseeing what we anticipate will be historic investment in our nation's roads, bridges airports and above all in our future.”

Chao comes in at a very volatile time in the nation’s history. It’s not a stretch to say that the country is in the middle of a “Political Civil War”, and with an infrastructure that is in shambles and needs intense attention and repair, if not replacement of some bridges. Trump has proposed $1 trillion during the next decade for infrastructure repair.

It’s an issue Chao addressed during her confirmation hearings, as Chao told the committee that the highway trust fund spends $10 billion each year more than it collects, with around 90% coming from the gas tax.

Chao will also have her hands full with the Aviation Branch of her Department, not to mention she’s walking into a buzz saw of controversy with the temporary immigration ban from countries with a bad terrorism history.  It’s an issue that Chao stated she was not consulted on before its implementation.

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