Pete Buttigieg becomes first openly gay Senate-confirmed Cabinet secretary

Nicholas Wu

Savannah Behrmann
 
| USA TODAY

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Buttigieg says ‘the eyes of history’ are on his Cabinet appointment

The former mayor of South Bend, Indiana would be the first openly gay Cabinet secretary if confirmed by the Senate.

Associated Press, USA TODAY

WASHINGTON – Pete Buttigieg was confirmed as Transportation Secretary Tuesday as the first openly gay Cabinet secretary to be confirmed by the Senate. 

Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Ind., and a Democratic presidential candidate, received overwhelming bipartisan support with a 86-13 vote. 

Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., the incoming Democratic chair of the panel overseeing Buttigieg’s confirmation, praised him Tuesday as a “young, energetic mayor” who could “help us usher in a new era of transportation.” 

The Department of Transportation distributes billions of dollars in federal highway funding and regulates aviation, railroads and busing. President Joe Biden’s infrastructure and clean energy plan has proposed placing 500,000 charging stations along highways and changing federal vehicles to electric power. Biden also has signed an executive order requiring the wearing of face masks in airports, on certain public transportation, and on many trains, planes, and buses. 

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Confirmation hearing praise: Buttigieg gets favorable reception in confirmation hearing for transportation secretary role

During his confirmation hearing in late January, Buttigieg told senators his background as a mayor gave him a “bottom-up perspective on transportation programs and funding,” reflecting on infrastructure programs he had administered in the city like the revitalization of the city’s downtown and the revamping of its train system and airport.

Buttigieg was the nation’s youngest mayor of a city South Bend’s size or larger when he took office in 2012. He envisioned his hometown as a “beta city,” the perfect size to use his data-driven background with the consulting firm McKinsey to test big ideas. That included the “smart sewers” that saved South Bend an estimated hundreds of millions of dollars and became a template for a product now sold to cities all over the world.

In 2018, South Bend beat out more than 300 other cities for a Bloomberg Mayors challenge grant to expand a ride share service the city piloted.

Former President Donald Trump’s acting director of national intelligence, Ric Grenell, was the first openly gay Cabinet-level official, but Grenell was never confirmed by the Senate.  

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