The United States Senate has confirmed Elaine Chao as President Trump’s transportation secretary by a vote of 93-6. Secretary Chao, nominated by the president back in November, has prior experience in a presidential cabinet as secretary of labor during all eight years of President George W. Bush’s term.
Secretary Chao will likely be involved in infrastructure investment and revitalization, a top priority of President Trump, and will oversee the rollout of self-driving car regulations over the next several years. During her confirmation hearing, Ms. Chao said regulations need not “dampen the basic creativity and innovation of our country” and that the government must avoid a “patchwork” of state regulations regarding autonomous vehicles — something that carmakers have repeatedly warned against.
“As the next Secretary of Transportation, Elaine Chao will have the unique opportunity to advance new and transformative safety innovations like self-driving vehicles,” said the Self-Driving Coalition for Safer Streets, a lobbying group for a number of interested companies including Uber, Lyft, Ford, and Google. “We congratulate Secretary Chao on today’s confirmation, and we look forward to working with her on delivering the promise of self-driving technology to make our neighborhoods safer and enhance mobility for the disabled and disadvantaged.”
In addition to self-driving legislation, Chao will work on the renewal of FAA authorization (which has included some controversial provisions), and will likely want to look at new formulas for funding the Highway Trust Fund which has needed repeated cash infusions over the past decade. During her confirmation, Chao said the fund was “in bad shape.”
Secretary Chao was born in Taiwan and was the first Asian-American woman and the first Taiwanese-American to serve in a presidential cabinet. She is also the wife of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). In a surprising footnote, Secretary Chao is the second woman (after Elizabeth Dole) to hold the offices of secretary of labor and secretary of transportation, and whose spouse has been Senate majority leader.