By Spy Uganda Correspondent
US: President-elect Joe Biden announced Pete Buttigieg on Tuesday as his nominee to lead the U.S. Transportation Department, making him the first of Biden’s Democratic rivals for the presidency to land a role in his Cabinet.
The appointment of Buttigieg, 38, is another step in a meteoric political rise for the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, who showed surprising strength as a presidential candidate. If confirmed by the U.S. Senate, he would run a sprawling federal agency that oversees the nation’s airlines, highways and transit systems.
Buttigieg would also make history as the first openly LGBTQ Cabinet secretary to be approved by the Senate. (LGBT, or GLBT, is an initialism that stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender).
“I am nominating him for Secretary of Transportation because this position stands at the nexus of so many of the interlocking challenges and opportunities ahead of us,” Biden said in a statement. “Jobs, infrastructure, equity, and climate all come together at the DOT, the site of some of our most ambitious plans to build back better.”
The Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest advocacy group for the LGBTQ community, praised the nomination, saying Buttigieg “was open and honest” about his identity and gave a voice to the community.
“His voice as a champion for the LGBTQ community in the Cabinet room will help President-elect Biden build back our nation better, stronger and more equal than before,” Alphonso David, the group’s president, said in a statement.
Criticism Over Civil Rights Record
Despite being viewed as a rising star within the party, Buttigieg’s potential nomination to a Cabinet post has been opposed by a number of progressive groups and Black leaders who have criticized his record on civil rights.
During the Democratic contest, Buttigieg faced attacks from African-American activists, who argued he did not do enough as mayor to battle systemic racism in South Bend and help Black residents share in the city’s economic revitalisation.
He also was criticised over the shooting death of a Black man by a white police officer in South Bend, as well as questions over diversity on the city’s police force.
Emphasis on loyalty
Biden has appeared largely unconcerned by liberal complaints about appointments to his administration, preferring to reward those who demonstrated loyalty to his campaign when it was struggling to build support.
A U.S. Navy veteran who served as a reservist in Afghanistan, Buttigieg had also been considered to head the Department of Veterans Affairs. That slot went to former Obama White House aide Denis McDonough.
U.S. Representative Deb Haaland of New Mexico has emerged as Biden’s leading choice to head the Interior Department, according to three sources familiar with the decision process, a selection, that if confirmed by the Senate, would make her the first Native American to lead a Cabinet agency.
At the Transportation Department, Buttigieg may be charged with overseeing much of Biden’s plan to dramatically boost infrastructure spending, including building 550,000 electric-vehicle charging stations and boosting spending on high-speed rail and other green projects and persuading Congress to find a way to pay for new spending.
Buttigieg would face challenges on aviation, including plans in Congress to overhaul how the Federal Aviation Administration certifies new aeroplanes following two fatal Boeing 737 MAX crashes that led to the plane’s grounding for 20 months.
He would also have to decide how to oversee self-driving cars and driver assistance systems like Tesla Inc’s autopilot that have come under scrutiny following fatal crashes.