Former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg made his final pitch to a Senate committee Thursday, who will be weighing his nomination as President Joe Biden’s transportation secretary.
During the confirmation hearing, the former Democratic presidential candidate promised to help carry out Biden’s “Build Back Better” initiative, which calls for an ambitious rebuilding of the nation’s infrastructure.
Buttigieg added that the Department of Transportation has a “generational opportunity” to build back the nation’s economy by “creating millions of well-paying jobs, revitalizing communities that have been left behind, enabling American small businesses and tackling the climate crisis.” Specifically, Buttigieg cited opportunities in building a network of charging stations for electric cars and updating auto emissions regulations.
The 39-year-old Democrat said a more sustainable and predictable means of funding should be developed for the department. He promised more conversations with Congress about programs that would require large investments in the future but did not detail where the money would come from.
Buttigieg previously endorsed converting from the current Highway Trust Fund to a method that would tax drivers based on their road mileage. Either way, Buttigieg affirmed Thursday that “all options were on the table.”
During the confirmation hearing, Buttigieg fielded a few contentious questions from Republican Senator Ted Cruz regarding President Joe Biden’s decision to kill the Keystone Pipeline permit. Cruz pointed out that the project was scheduled to create more than 11,000 jobs in 2021.
Buttigieg defended President Biden’s decision by ensuring that the “Build Back Better” plan, if implemented correctly, would create millions more jobs for all Americans.
If confirmed, Buttigieg will come into the position at a critical time. President Biden has proposed spending billions of dollars on major infrastructure improvements. In addition, the DOT will have to navigate the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, which has left various modes of transportation decimated.
There are many responsibilities ahead, but Buttigieg promised the Senate committee he was prepared to tackle all of them.
“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,” Buttigieg said. “So much is at stake today — and so much is possible.”