U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, will convene a nomination hearing for Wilbur Ross, President-elect Donald Trump’s Secretary of the Department of Commerce designee, at 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday, January 18, 2017.
Sen. Thune released a statement upon the naming of Ross as Secretary of Commerce designee on November 30, 2016, and following their in-person meeting to discuss infrastructure and innovation on December 6, 2016.
Ross’s nomination questionnaire is available here.
Wilbur L. Ross, Jr., to be Secretary of the Department of Commerce
Wednesday, January 18, 2017
Full committee nomination hearing
This hearing will take place in Senate Dirksen Office Building, Room G50. Witness testimony, opening statements, and a live video of the hearing will be available on www.commerce.senate.gov.
NOTE: Hearing location and date changed on 1/10/17.
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Chairman John Thune
Good morning, we are meeting today to consider the nomination of Mr. Wilbur Ross to be the next Secretary of Commerce. If confirmed, Mr. Ross would bring decades of business, entrepreneurial, and civic experience to this important position.
Mr. Ross is perhaps best known for his expertise in revitalizing distressed businesses, such as those in the U.S. steel industry. At a time when most investors had abandoned the industry, he organized International Steel Group in 2002 and, through acquisitions, made it the largest integrated steel company in North America. Later, it merged with Mittal Steel to form the largest steel company in the world.
Mr. Ross’s strong record of achievement in business led Bloomberg Business Week to name him one of the 50 Most Influential People in Global Finance in 2011. It is also why he is the only person elected to both the Turnaround Management Hall of Fame and the Private Equity Hall of Fame.
Mr. Ross’s business experience is complemented by his service to the community. Mr. Ross served as a First Lieutenant in the U.S. Army, and he is currently a Member of the Dean’s Advisory Board of Harvard Business School. He is also an Advisory Board Member of the Yale University School of Management, which has presented him with its Legend of Leadership Award.
Mr. Ross’s nomination comes at an important time in our nation’s economic recovery. And I believe his extensive management experience in the private sector, and his understanding of the challenges faced by workers and businesses alike, will equip him well for the job of leading the Department of Commerce.
This large department, which has 12 different bureaus and nearly 47,000 employees located in all 50 states and around the world, oversees a diverse array of issues from trade to fishery management, and from weather forecasting to the Census Bureau.
I will be asking Mr. Ross about many of the challenges facing the department and our economy. First and foremost, I will be asking how he plans to deal with trade matters as the Secretary of Commerce.
I also want to explore how, if confirmed, he would continue to play a lead role in advocating for policies that promote American innovation, like freeing up government spectrum for private use and facilitating the growing Internet of Things.
Mr. Ross’s experience turning around businesses should help him anticipate and mitigate the risks of major programs like FirstNet, the independent authority charged with creating a nationwide broadband network for first responders, and the acquisition of critical weather satellites by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Finally, I would note that collaboration between the public and private sectors is one of the hallmarks of the department’s work, as exemplified by the ongoing development of cybersecurity best practices and standards, which this Committee has strongly endorsed. Mr. Ross, should you be confirmed, we will be depending on you to continue this collaboration and strengthen it where necessary.
Mr. Ross, I believe your business know-how and intelligence make you an excellent candidate to serve as the next Secretary of Commerce, and I look forward to supporting your nomination. I will now turn to Ranking Member Nelson for any opening remarks he’d like to make.
Mr. Ross, as a fellow Floridian, I’d like to welcome you here and congratulate you on your nomination.
I can’t promise you today’s hearing will be a piece of cake, but I’m looking forward to having a comprehensive and cordial discussion about your qualifications and how, if confirmed, you might handle many of the pressing issues you could face.
I’d like to start by acknowledging that it’s no secret you have some of the most extensive financial holdings of any past or present nominee before this committee. After reviewing your financial disclosure and ethics agreement, I want to note that it’s my understanding that you have agreed to divest the vast majority of your personal holdings and resign from nearly 50 boards and organizations. I believe that was the right thing to do and tells me you’re committed to doing the job the right way by placing the public’s interests ahead of your own.
It’s my hope President Trump will follow your lead to eliminate any business dealings that could pose potential conflicts of interest.
Mr. Ross, in recent years the Commerce Secretary post has not been one of the most sought after or appreciated positions in Washington. But I have a feeling that’s about to change in a big way.
As the President-elect has indicated, he is going to look to you and Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson to lead the administration’s trade agenda. That’s a departure from the recent past when previous commerce secretaries played much smaller roles in setting U.S. trade policy.
Given that expanded role and the incoming president’s desire to make job creation and overhauling trade deals top priorities, I hope we’ll hear more from you on the administration’s trade plans and how they will create jobs and benefit all Americans.
Additionally, I’d like for you to tell us more about how your trade duties might expand and how this could impact the role of the U.S. Trade Representative, who traditionally has taken the lead on trade negotiations.
And while we’re on the topic of protecting American workers, Mr. Ross, there’s been some who have suggested that you built your business empire on the backs of workers who lost their jobs after buying and then ultimately profiting from the sale of troubled companies. Others have lauded you for saving companies and thousands of jobs.
I think it would be most helpful to all of us on the committee if we could get an assessment from you on your record of job creation and what, if any, lessons you’ve learned that will help grow and protect American workers.
While I expect a good portion of today will be spent talking about trade, jobs and Mr. Ross’ experience, there’s lots more to the Department of Commerce.
This little department of some 47,000 employees impacts our daily lives by:
- Providing vital weather forecasts to millions of Americans though NOAA and the National Weather Service;
- Playing a huge role in building out our nation’s digital infrastructure;
- Helping grow and expand minority owned businesses; and,
- Collecting all sorts of data – including data critical to jobs and the economy, as well as monitoring environmental conditions and climate change.
That brings me to my last topic and one especially important to Florida – sea level rise and global warming.
Of Florida’s 20 million people, over 75 percent live in coastal counties, including Mr. Ross. The state’s highest point is only 345 feet above sea level.
Because of the work NOAA and other agencies are doing, we have measurements and forecasts that can tell us when a monster storm is coming.
We also have the science to know that coastal communities face peril even on sunny days because of longer-term atmospheric trends.
I know some people think climate change is a hoax.
But the data – scientifically accurate data – from weather satellites shows that it is happening.
The problem is that some folks will go to any length to deny this truth, including gaging climate scientists. That should be very troubling to us all.
So, Mr. Ross, given your personal experience of living in Florida, I hope you agree with me on the need to continue vital scientific research to inform the public about extreme weather events and trends over time. Additionally, it’s my hope we’ll get a commitment from you to not allow intimidation and censorship of climate scientists under your jurisdiction.
With that Mr. Chairman, I’d like to welcome my colleague and fellow Floridian, Senator Marco Rubio, back to the committee to introduce Mr. Ross.
Mr. Wilbur Ross