At age 39, new Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg made history in a single day. He became the first millennial and youngest person nominated to the Biden Cabinet. He is also the first openly gay Cabinet member in US history. Fittingly, Senator Kyrsten Sinema (AZ), the country’s first openly bisexual senator, presided over the confirmation hearing. She announced the 86-13 vote in favor of Buttigieg.
Buttigieg will need to bridge racial and economic disparities through infrastructure once he gets to work. Also, he will need to keep up with Biden’s agenda of addressing climate change. Another key goal would be figuring out to revive failing mass transit systems. Public transportation is showing declining ridership, especially during the coronavirus pandemic. In addition, Biden recently signed an order directing a federal refleet. In his efforts to Buy American, Biden directed that the more than 600,000 government vehicles shift to electric versions.
The new secretary tweeted that he feels “honored and humbled” with his confirmation. He said he’ll be ready to get to work immediately. Buttigieg will oversee a large department that employs 55,000 government workers. The Transportation Department also carries tens of billions of dollars in budget.
During a speech in Delaware, Buttigieg reflected on what his role meant for all gay Americans. He referred to the nomination of James Hormel as ambassador to Luxembourg in 1998. “I can remember watching the news — 17-years-old in Indiana, seeing a story about an appointee of President Clinton named to be an ambassador attacked and denied a vote in the Senate because he was gay — ultimately able to serve only by a recess appointment. And I learned something about some of the limits that exist in this country when it comes to who is allowed to belong. But just as important, I saw how those limits could be challenged,” he said. Then-President Bill Clinton appointed Hormel during a congressional break.
In an interview with ABC’s “The View” last month, he shared his similar experience. “As I was in that hearing taking those questions from senators, you could see my husband, Chasten, over my shoulder, and that is something that has never happened before for a Cabinet nominee. My hope is that, in turn, makes it easier for the next person to come along so that this is never even viewed as a barrier by a future generation,” he shared.
Praise from LGBTQ Groups
LGBTQ rights organizations hailed Buttitgieg’s nomination and subsequent confirmation as Transportation Secretary. They called his appointment a major step towards diversity. Sarah Kate Ellis, CEO of GLAAD, the world’s largest LGBTQ group, congratulated him. “His historic confirmation hearing, where he introduced his husband Chasten, was also a milestone for LGBTQ acceptance and representation,” she said.
“Secretary Buttigieg’s vision will improve all Americans’ lives and navigate toward needed change to serve communities on the margins. We know he will continue to lead our country’s drive for LGBTQ acceptance,” she added.
Apart from Buttigieg, Biden’s Cabinet also includes a number of diverse appointments. This includes the first female treasury secretary and the first Black defense Secretary. He also appointed the first female director of National Intelligence. Buttigieg is the fifth Biden Cabinet-level official confirmed by the Senate.
Watch the PBS coverage of the Senate confirmation of Pete Buttigieg for Secretary of Transportation:
What do you think of Pete Buttigieg’s appointment and confirmation as Transportation Secretary? Do you think his experience and demeanor will make him an effective Cabinet Secretary? Let us know what you think about the latest Biden appointee by sharing your comments below.