WASHINGTON — Transportation Secretary nominee Pete Buttigieg will tell a Senate panel Thursday that he hopes to help the Biden administration shepherd through Congress a massive investment in infrastructure, calling it the key to helping regrow the economy.
“Infrastructure can be the cornerstone of all this,” he is expected to say in testimony prepared for his confirmation hearing before the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee
Buttigieg, whose prepared remarks were released shortly before the 10 a.m. hearing, is calling for a smarter transportation policy — one meant to help quality of life.
“I believe that good transportation policy can play no less a role than making possible the American Dream, getting people and goods to where they need to be, directly and indirectly creating good-paying jobs,” he will say. “But I also recognize that at their worst, misguided policies and missed opportunities in transportation can reinforce racial and economic inequality by dividing or isolating neighborhoods and undermining government’s basic role of empowering Americans to thrive.”
Like his predecessors, including Donald Trump’s Transportation secretary, Elaine Chao, Buttigieg is pledging that safety would be his top priority if confirmed. But safety, he will acknowledge, means something more than preventing traffic accidents in the age of COVID-19 and “takes on new meaning amid this pandemic.”
Depending on how his hearing goes, Buttigieg could become one of the youngest ever to serve in the post. The former South Bend, Indiana, mayor turned 39 on Tuesday.
On Wednesday, awaiting Biden’s inauguration, Buttigieg said he’d been speaking to both Republican and Democratic senators in advance of the hearing.
“I think it’ll be a great chance to hear about what they think is important and lay out the vision for the department,” he said.
Buttigieg faces no huge controversies going into the hearing. In a testament to how generally noncontroversial his nomination has been to date, a Republican, Sen. Todd Young of Indiana, is scheduled to introduce him to the panel.
Young has been supportive. He issued a news release when Buttigieg was nominated, saying Biden’s choice “understands how critical infrastructure is to growth and opportunity.” Young, a Senate Commerce member, later tweeted a screenshot of his meeting with Buttigieg.