Biden picks Jennifer Granholm as Energy secretary, Pete Buttigieg as Transportation chief, sources say
President-elect Joe Biden is expected to pick former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg to head the Transportation Department.
President-elect Joe Biden is expected to pick his former rival Pete Buttigieg as secretary of Transportation and former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm as Energy secretary, according to four people familiar with the plans.
The decisions leave Buttigieg, former mayor of South Bend, Ind., poised to become the first openly gay person confirmed by the Senate to a Cabinet post. At 38, Buttigieg would also add a youthful dynamic to an incoming administration that is largely dominated by leaders with decades of Washington experience.
Granholm, 61, served as Michigan’s attorney general from 1999 to 2003 and two terms as Michigan’s first female governor, from 2003 to 2010. She was a supporter of Biden’s presidential bid and has spoken out against President Trump’s attempts to overturn the election results, accusing him of “poisoning democracy.”
Buttigieg’s and Granholm’s intended nominations were confirmed by four people who were familiar with one or both of the selections. They spoke to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly before the president-elect’s announcements.
Biden is steadily rolling out his choices for Cabinet secretaries, having already selected former Obama advisor Tony Blinken as his secretary of State, retired Army Gen. Lloyd Austin as his secretary of Defense and former Fed Chair Janet Yellen as his Treasury secretary. He has also picked former Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to reprise that role in the Biden administration, and Ohio Rep. Marcia L. Fudge to serve as Housing secretary.
Buttigieg became a leading figure in national politics when he was among those who challenged Biden for the Democratic presidential nomination this year. Initially written off as the leader of a relatively small city competing against far more established figures, Buttigieg zeroed in on a message of generational change to finish the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses in a virtual tie with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).
His campaign stumbled, however, in appealing to Black voters who play a critical role in Democratic politics. As the primary moved into more diverse states such as South Carolina, Buttigieg faltered and quickly withdrew from the race. His backing of Biden ushered in a remarkably swift unification of the party around its ultimate nominee.
As for Granholm, as energy secretary she will have a role in executing Biden’s promised $2-trillion climate plan, billed as the nation’s broadest and most ambitious effort to cut fossil fuel emissions that are dangerously warming Earth’s atmosphere.
As governor, when Granholm faced an economic downturn before the Great Recession struck, she sought to diversify the state that is home to the Detroit Three automakers by emphasizing the growing “green economy.” The state pushed incentives to manufacture wind turbines, solar panels, advanced batteries and electric vehicles, and she signed a law requiring that more of Michigan’s energy come from renewable sources.
After leaving office, she moved to California to teach at UC Berkeley. She is a political contributor on CNN.
Biden’s selection of Buttigieg for Transportation secretary drew praise from LGBTQ rights groups, with one calling it “a new milestone in a decades-long effort” to have LGBTQ representation in the U.S. government.
“Pete’s nomination is a new milestone in a decades-long effort to ensure LGBTQ people are represented throughout our government — and its impact will reverberate well beyond the department he will lead,” said Annise Parker, president and CEO of the LGBTQ Victory Institute. “It distances our nation from a troubled legacy of barring out LGBTQ people from government positions and moves us closer to the president-elect’s vision of a government that reflects America.”
The South Bend chapter of Black Lives Matter, however, denounced Buttigieg’s impending nomination. The group had made its displeasure of Buttigieg known during his presidential campaign, after the 2019 South Bend shooting of a Black man by a white police officer.
“We saw Black communities have their houses torn down by his administration,” BLM’s South Bend leader Jorden Giger said in a statement, referring to Buttigieg’s effort to tear down substandard housing. “We saw the machinery of his police turned against Black people.”
It’s long been clear that Biden would find some role for Buttigieg in his administration. The two became close during the primary, chatting before debates and other campaign events.
Biden has compared Buttigieg to his late son, Beau, saying there’s no higher compliment he could pay anyone.
Now Buttigieg will play a central role in shaping some of Biden’s leading policy priorities.
The Transportation Department helps oversee the nation’s highway system, planes, trains and mass transit and is poised to play a key role early in the incoming administration.
Biden has pledged to spend billions making major infrastructure improvements and on retrofitting initiatives that can help the U.S. battle climate change. He also wants to immediately mandate mask-wearing on airplanes and public transportation systems to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
Infrastructure spending can be a bipartisan issue, and Trump spent years promising to push a major bill through Congress that never materialized. Instead his administration moved to soften carbon emissions standards that Biden’s team will probably work to undo as part of the broader commitment to slowing global warming.
The once most frequently mentioned early pick to head the Transportation Department, President Obama’s former chief of staff and ex-Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, sparked strong pushback from top progressive activists. Emanuel, also a former congressman, helped oversee the Obama administration’s distribution of tens of billions of dollars in transportation spending as part of a massive stimulus bill approved after the 2008 financial crisis — but now seems unlikely to take any position in Biden’s administration.
His chances faded after progressives and civil rights leaders were very critical of Emanuel’s handling of the high-profile police shooting death of Laquan McDonald, a Black teenager killed by a white officer, during his tenure as Chicago’s mayor.
Biden also plans to tap former Environmental Protection Agency chief Gina McCarthy to spearhead his ambitions for a massive, coordinated domestic campaign to slow climate change. Her counterpart in climate efforts will be former Secretary of State John F. Kerry, earlier named by Biden as his climate envoy for national security issues.
The selection is in line with Biden’s pattern of picking tested, familiar figures from his time as vice president. McCarthy, 66, served as EPA administrator from 2013 to 2017 during Obama’s second term and was assistant administrator for the Office of Air and Radiation in Obama’s first term.
She led initiatives that cut air and water pollution and signed the Clean Power Plan, Obama’s signature effort to address climate change by setting the first national standards for reducing carbon emissions from existing power plants. Trump later discarded the plan.
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