President-elect Joe Biden on Wednesday formally introduced Pete Buttigieg as his nominee to lead the Department of Transportation, tapping the former South Bend, Indiana, mayor to head up an agency that will be tasked with ambitious infrastructure and climate-related goals set by the administration.
Buttigieg would be the first openly gay member of a presidential Cabinet to be confirmed by the Senate. And at 38, he would be one of the youngest Cabinet secretaries in decades, and would represent a bridge to a new generation of Democratic politicians.
Biden made frequent reference to both historical markers in his speech introducing Buttigieg as his nominee to lead the Transportation Department,” touting him as the latest example in his “Cabinet of firsts” and “a new voice with new ideas determined to move past old politics.”
Biden said he chose Buttigieg to lead the agency “because the department is at the center of some of our most ambitious plans to build back better,” listing off examples that included goals to rebuild climate-resilient new infrastructure and restore “our crumbling roads, bridges and ports.”
Biden lauded Buttigieg — who, other than Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, is so far the only other former rival for the 2020 Democratic nomination whom Biden has chosen for an administration job — as “one of the smartest people you’ll ever meet” and a “policy wonk with a big heart.”
“He’s always clear about who he is, what he believes and how he wants to bring people in, not exclude them,” Biden said.
Buttigieg, who spoke after Biden, used his remarks to emphasize the importance of infrastructure, noting that he would work to ensure that "infrastructure week" is "never again a media punchline,” and discussed the groundbreaking nature of his nomination.
“Thank you for honoring your commitment to diversity in this administration,” Buttigieg said. He also recalled as a teenager watching the blocking of President Bill Clinton’s nomination of James Hormel to be the U.S. ambassador to Luxembourg, the first nomination by a president of an openly LGBTQ person to such a position.
“The eyes of history are on this appointment,” Buttigieg said.
Buttigieg ended his 2020 presidential bid just before the pivotal Super Tuesday primaries and caucuses in early March and immediately endorsed Biden. Buttigieg focused his campaign on passing the torch to leaders of a younger generation.
In other transition news:
- During a brief round of questions after his prepared remarks, Biden was asked when he would receive a Covid-19 vaccination and said, "We're working on that right now," and "I don't want to get ahead of the line, but I want to make sure that we demonstrate to the American people, that it is safe to take." He added, "When I do it, I'll do it publicly."
- Biden, responding to another question, called the stimulus deal being hammered out by lawmakers "encouraging."
- Biden plans to nominate former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm to lead the Department of Energy and is expected to name Gina McCarthy as his domestic climate coordinator, NBC News reports. McCarthy — a former EPA chief under President Barack Obama — will work with former Secretary of State John Kerry, whom the president-elect has tapped as his climate czar.
- The congressional committee that is responsible for Biden's inauguration Jan. 20 said Wednesday that it is limiting attendance to the ceremonies. The committee "has determined that this global pandemic and the rise in COVID-19 cases warranted a difficult decision to limit attendance at the 59th Inaugural Ceremonies to a live audience that resembles a State of the Union,” Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., the panel's chairman, said. The announcement said that traditionally, the committee "would distribute 200,000 tickets for the official ceremonies at the Capitol and provide ticket bundles to Members of the 117th Congress to distribute to constituents. For the 59th Inaugural Ceremonies, invitations to Members of the 117th Congress will be limited to themselves and one guest."
- Trump called out Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., for defying him Tuesday when he congratulated Biden on his election victory and called him the president-elect. In a tweet after midnight, Trump shared a story about his allies slamming McConnell and added, "Mitch, 75,000,000 VOTES, a record for a sitting President (by a lot). Too soon to give up. Republican Party must finally learn to fight. People are angry!"
- The president has come so close to firing FBI Director Christopher Wray in recent months that the White House counsel's office has warned him not to do so because it could put him in potential legal jeopardy, NBC News reports.
- Trump held a Cabinet meeting Wednesday, his first since May, at 11:30 a.m. ET. The meeting was closed to the press.
- In an interview on CNBC on Tuesday, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said the general public will receive the Covid-19 vaccine "by the end of February into March."
- Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., a member of "the squad" in the House, spearheaded a letter signed by more than 40 House lawmakers and representatives-elect calling on Biden to end the federal death penalty on his first day in office.