PHOTO CREDITS: CNN
Joe Biden is expected to pick Pete Buttigieg as secretary of Transportation and former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm as Energy secretary.
The decisions leave Buttigieg, former mayor of South Bend, Ind., poised to become the first openly gay person – confirmed by the Senate – to a Cabinet post. Under President Donald Trump, Richard Grenell, who is also openly gay, served as acting director of National Intelligence, a Cabinet-level post. But he did not face Senate confirmation as the acting leader. At 38, Buttigieg would also add a youthful dynamic to an incoming administration that is largely dominated by leaders with decades of Washington experience.
Granholm, 61, served as Michigan’s attorney general from 1999 to 2003 and two terms as Michigan’s first female governor, from 2003 to 2010. She was a supporter of Biden’s presidential bid and has spoken out against President Trump’s attempts to overturn the election results, accusing him of “poisoning democracy.” Buttigieg’s and Granholm’s intended nominations were confirmed by four people who were familiar with one or both of the selections. They spoke to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly before the president-elect’s announcements.
Biden is steadily rolling out his choices for Cabinet secretaries, having already selected former Obama advisor Tony Blinken as his secretary of State, retired Army Gen. Lloyd Austin as his secretary of Defense and former Fed Chair Janet Yellen as his Treasury secretary. He has also picked former Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to reprise that role in the Biden administration, and Ohio Rep. Marcia L. Fudge to serve as Housing secretary.
Buttigieg became a leading figure in national politics when he was among those who challenged Biden for the Democratic presidential nomination this year. As the primary moved into more diverse states such as South Carolina, Buttigieg faltered and quickly withdrew from the race. His backing of Biden ushered in a remarkably swift unification of the party around its ultimate nominee. As for Granholm, as energy secretary she will have a role in executing Biden’s promised $2-trillion climate plan, billed as “the nation’s broadest and most ambitious effort to cut fossil fuel emissions.”
As governor, when Granholm faced an economic downturn before the Great Recession struck, she sought to diversify the state that is home to the Detroit Three automakers by emphasizing the growing “green economy.” The state pushed incentives to manufacture wind turbines, solar panels, advanced batteries and electric vehicles, and she signed a law requiring that more of Michigan’s energy come from renewable sources. After leaving office, she moved to California to teach at UC Berkeley. She is a political contributor on CNN.
The South Bend chapter of Black Lives Matter, however, denounced Buttigieg’s impending nomination. The group had made its displeasure of Buttigieg known during his presidential campaign, after the 2019 South Bend shooting of a Black man by a white police officer. “We saw Black communities have their houses torn down by his administration,” BLM’s South Bend leader Jorden Giger said in a statement, referring to Buttigieg’s effort to tear down substandard housing. “We saw the machinery of his police turned against Black people.”
It’s long been clear that Biden would find some role for Buttigieg in his administration. The two became close during the primary, chatting before debates and other campaign events. Biden has compared Buttigieg to his late son, Beau, saying there’s no higher compliment he could pay anyone. A Navy veteran, Buttigieg could have led the Department of Veterans Affairs. But Biden decided instead to put him in charge of transportation, which is likely to become a key part of the administration’s efforts to combat climate change with aggressive actions on emissions (Deccan Herald).
The Transportation Department helps oversee the nation’s highway system, planes, trains and mass transit and is poised to play a key role early in the incoming administration. Biden has pledged to spend billions making major infrastructure improvements and on retrofitting initiatives that can help the U.S. battle climate change. He also wants to immediately mandate mask-wearing on airplanes and public transportation systems to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
Biden also plans to tap former Environmental Protection Agency chief Gina McCarthy to spearhead his ambitions for a massive, coordinated domestic campaign to slow climate change. Her counterpart in climate efforts will be former Secretary of State John F. Kerry, earlier named by Biden as his climate envoy for national security issues. The selection is in line with Biden’s pattern of picking tested, familiar figures from his time as vice president. McCarthy, 66, served as EPA administrator from 2013 to 2017 during Obama’s second term and was assistant administrator for the Office of Air and Radiation in Obama’s first term (LA Times).
POLITICS EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE