US Senate panel to hold hearing Jan.21 for transportation candidate

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Senate Commerce Committee will hold a confirmation hearing next Thursday on the appointment of former South Bend, Indiana mayor Pete Buttigieg as head of the transportation department, the panel said on Friday.

FILE PHOTO: Former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg, US President-elect Joe Biden’s candidate for transportation secretary, reacts to his appointment at a press conference at Biden’s transition headquarters in Wilmington, Delaware, USA, December 16, 2020. REUTERS / Kevin Lamarque / Pool / File Photo

President-elect Joe Biden has called on Buttigieg – a rival for the Democratic presidential nomination last year – to lead the department that oversees aviation, highways, vehicles, pipelines and public transportation.

On Thursday night, Biden, who takes office next Wednesday, offered $ 20 billion in additional government assistance to help struggling U.S. transit systems that have seen massive ridership declines amid the pandemic of COVID-19.

Congress has allocated $ 39 billion in emergency funding for transit systems, including $ 14 billion approved last month and $ 65 billion in government loans and bailouts to U.S. airlines. Lawmakers have allocated $ 12 billion to airports and $ 2 billion to Amtrak passenger train service.

One of the key issues will be pressure from Biden to dramatically increase spending on U.S. infrastructure. Biden also pledged to tighten fuel economy standards that were reduced under Republican President Donald Trump and to take action to increase the number of electric vehicles on American roads.

Buttigieg, 38, told MSNBC that safety “will be my first priority.”

In April 2019, Trump and Democratic leaders agreed to spend $ 2 trillion on roads, bridges, power grids, water, and broadband infrastructure in the United States – but the president never offered a new source of revenue to pay for upgrades – and never made it a priority.

In June 2020, Trump’s White House drafted – but never made public – a $ 1 trillion infrastructure proposal.

Biden said Thursday he would ask Congress in February “for historic investments in infrastructure and manufacturing, innovation, research and development, and clean energy.”

Trump has never had a Senate-confirmed leader of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which conducts numerous ongoing auto safety investigations.

Biden also pledged to impose face coverings on all interstate travel after Trump refused to legally require them on planes, airports, trains and buses.

Reporting by David Shepardson; edited by Franklin Paul and Jonathan Oatis

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