Senate confirms Buttigieg as Secretary of Transportation

Feb. 3, 2021
Buttigieg becomes the fifth confirmed member of President Biden’s cabinet and will be tasked with leading the administration’s infrastructure push.

Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Ind., has been confirmed by the U.S. Senate to be the Secretary of Transportation in an 86-13 vote.  

Secretary Buttigieg becomes the 19th confirmed secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation. His confirmation also has historical significance as he becomes the first openly gay Cabinet member and, having turned 39 in January, is the youngest Cabinet member in history, as well.

At the time of his nomination, then-President-elect Joe Biden called Buttigieg “a patriot and a problem-solver who speaks to the best of who we are as a nation.”

Secretary Buttigieg will lead the administration’s efforts to strengthen the nation’s surface and air transportation. President Biden’s infrastructure plan during the election included expanding transit options, especially in fast-growing cities, “smarter, climate-friendly strategies” to reduce congestion and more equitable transit networks to serve high-poverty areas.

Infrastructure will also be central to the Biden Administration’s pandemic recovery plan. President Biden included $20 billion in his America Rescue Plan proposal and promised more this month on a larger infrastructure push, the Build Back Better Plan.

Following the Senate’s vote, Secretary Buttigieg took to Twitter to state he is “honored and humbled” and ready to start work.

Full support of the transit industry

Transit and mobility stakeholders were quick to offer their congratulations to Secretary Buttigieg.

President and CEO of the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) Paul Skoutelas noted the transit industry’s “tremendous challenges” in 2020 while also working to serve essential workers.

“Our members have been on the front lines throughout the pandemic, connecting essential workers to their jobs in hospitals, grocery stores and other vital services while ensuring that Americans are not cut off from medical care, groceries, or pharmacies and healthcare appointments.

“We look forward to working closely with Secretary Buttigieg as Congress advances President Biden’s American Rescue Plan to address the ongoing impacts of the coronavirus pandemic. In particular, we urge Congress and the administration to provide $39.3 billion of COVID-19 emergency funding to help public transit agencies continue to provide a critical lifeline to essential workers and help our communities begin to rebuild our economy.

“We also know that rebuilding America’s infrastructure will be a major priority of President Biden’s administration and that Secretary Buttigieg is a stellar selection to lead DOT at this moment in history. Public transportation has a critical role to play in our economic recovery, reducing our nation’s carbon footprint and advancing racial equity. Our industry stands ready to address these issues head on, while revitalizing our communities and getting Americans back to work,” concluded Skoutelas.

Community Transportation Association of America Executive Director Scott Bogren issued a letter to Secretary Buttigieg outlining the efforts the association’s members have taken to support their communities during the past year, including meal and medicine delivery and COVID-19 vaccine transportation.

“Our members are ready to be part of the solution,” wrote Bogren. “We look forward to working with you and your team at the Federal Transit Administration on our shared priorities of enhancing mobility access across the country, ensuring smaller operators have access to zero-emission vehicles and energy sources and helping our smallest systems have access to the inventive tools and technology found in the larger cities.”

Amtrak CEO William Flynn said, “As a mayor and public servant, Secretary Buttigieg understands the challenges facing American cities and the role passenger rail plays in connecting people and economies. His commitment to invest in infrastructure and climate initiatives will create jobs, help the nation recover from the pandemic and provide for a more sustainable transportation system in America. Amtrak is excited to work with the Biden Administration, Congress and our state partners to launch a new era of passenger rail that will create dedicated and predictable funding, connect underserved communities and stimulate economic recovery.”

National Association of City Transportation Officials Executive Director Corinne Kisner and Chair Janette Sadik-Khan issued a statement laying out the possible long-term impacts of transportation decisions made in the near future.

“Secretary Buttigieg takes the helm as the U.S. faces a series of cascading and interlinked crises: the COVID-19 pandemic, a deepening recession, systemic racism and accelerating climate change. The course his department sets and the actions he takes will directly affect millions of Americans every day, touching every street, sidewalk and bus in the nation.

“As a former mayor, Secretary Buttigieg knows how streets and transportation networks can build the foundation for a just, sustainable future. The choices made now will set outcomes for future decades, just as unsustainable choices in the past divided communities, created unsafe streets and locked the U.S. into emitting unsustainable levels of greenhouse gases.

“Buttigieg will not be tackling these crises alone, and the Biden-Harris administration has brought many inspired choices to the leadership of USDOT; people that can help define a new direction for American mobility that puts local communities first. We are encouraged by Secretary Buttigieg’s advocacy for stronger transit, safer streets and a refocus of U.S. transportation policy on the direct needs within communities. Given the gravity of the challenges before the country, we expect Buttigieg to hit the ground running even more; this new team has no time to waste. U.S. cities and transit agencies stand at the ready to build back better, together,” said Kisner and Sadik-Khan.

About the Author

Mischa Wanek-Libman | Group Editorial Director

Mischa Wanek-Libman serves as editor in chief of Mass Transit magazine and group editorial director of the Infrastructure and Aviation Group at Endeavor Business Media. She is responsible for developing and maintaining the editorial direction of the group and is based in the western suburbs of Chicago.

Wanek-Libman has spent more than 20 years covering transportation issues including construction projects and engineering challenges for various commuter railroads and transit agencies. She has been recognized for editorial excellence through her individual work, as well as for collaborative content. 

She is an active member of the American Public Transportation Association's Marketing and Communications Committee and serves as a Board Observer on the National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association (NRC) Board of Directors.  

She is a graduate of Drake University, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism and Mass Communication with a major in magazine journalism and a minor in business management.