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A key U.S. Senate committee moved the nomination of former presidential candidate and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg out of committee, putting him a step closer to being confirmed as the nation’s 19th Secretary of Transportation.
The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation voted 21-3 to confirm Buttigieg’s nomination and move it to the full Senate for an up-or-down vote.
If confirmed, as expected, Buttigieg would become the first out LGBTQ person to serve in a Senate-approved cabinet position. Last year, President Trump temporarily appointed Richard Grenell, the former U.S. Ambassador to Germany, as acting Director of National Intelligence, making him the first LGBTQ cabinet-level official in U.S. history, but Grenell was never confirmed to that position by the U.S. Senate.
Buttigieg, who is 39, would also become the youngest person to ever lead the Department of Transportation in its nearly 51-year history.
The former 2020 presidential candidate particularly impressed senators during his confirmation hearing last week, earning praise from both parties for his straightforward answers, his detailed knowledge of day-to-day issues that the department he’ll be charged with leading deals with, such as rural air service and trucking regulations.
Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) even went so far as to praise Buttigieg’s performance, saying he “put on a clinic on how a nominee should work and act.”
LGBTQ groups have long been excited for an out LGBTQ person to be confirmed to an official cabinet position in the line of presidential succession. LGBTQ Victory Institute, which has advocated for LGBTQ representation in government positions through its Presidential Appointments Initiative, was ecstatic about Buttigieg’s nomination and expected confirmation.
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“Pete testifying at his confirmation hearing, with his husband looking on, will be among the powerful images that define this unprecedented transition and will be remembered as a milestone moment in our nation’s move toward social justice,” Annise Parker, the president and CEO of LGBTQ Victory Institute, said in a statement. “Pete is shattering a centuries-old political barrier that will pave the way for more LGBTQ Americans to pursue and serve in high-level appointed positions — and that is transformative.
LGBTQ Victory Institute’s Presidential Appointments Initiative has previously set four goals for the Biden-Harris administration to achieve regarding LGBTQ representation.
In addition to an out LGBTQ cabinet member, the initiative has urged the administration to appoint openly LGBTQ women, transgender individuals, and LGBTQ people of color to ambassadorships; ensure LGBTQ people receive “equitable representation” among the administration’s presidential appointees and that they reflect the diversity of the LGBTQ community; and to nominate an openly LGBTQ U.S. Supreme Court Justice.
“While this is a groundbreaking moment, I know Pete is focused on the difficult task ahead,” Parker added. “America is in desperate need of a revitalized transportation effort and nobody understands that better than our nation’s mayors. Pete’s two terms in South Bend provides him the experience and perspective needed to propose bold solutions that address both our crumbling infrastructure and the current economic crisis. He is going to make an excellent Secretary of Transportation.”
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