Thune Statement on Secretary Chao's Nomination

January 31, 2017

I have sought recognition to speak in support of Secretary Elaine Chao to be the next Secretary of Transportation.


It would be hard to come up with a more qualified nominee than Secretary Chao for this important role.  In addition to serving for eight years as the U.S. Secretary of Labor, Secretary Chao has also served as the Deputy Secretary of the department she’s now been tapped to lead. 


Her extensive experience also includes leading the United Way of America, the Peace Corps, and the Federal Maritime Commission. 


The Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, which I am honored to chair, held a hearing on Secretary Chao’s nomination on January 11, 2017.  To no one’s surprise, she demonstrated her experience, thoughtfulness, and commitment to working collaboratively with Congress on the challenges facing our transportation system.   


Last week, the Commerce Committee acted by voice vote to report her nomination favorably to the floor, and I’m hopeful that the Senate will confirm her overwhelmingly today.


The agency Secretary Chao has been nominated to lead plays a vital role in facilitating and promoting the safe and efficient movement of goods and people throughout our country and the world. 


Our economy is truly dependent on a thriving transportation sector.


Without a robust and efficient transportation sector, rural states like mine would be unable to get their goods to market.  Increasing the capacity and efficiency of our nation’s highways, rail lines, pipelines, and ports is crucial, and will have to be a top priority for the next Secretary of Transportation. 


A continued focus on safety must also be a top priority for the next Secretary.  While our nation’s pipelines, railroads, airways, and highways have a strong record of safety, improvements can and should be made. 


Many of the strong safety improvements the Commerce Committee advanced as part of the FAST Act and PIPES Act last Congress are yet to be implemented, and we will expect our next Secretary of Transportation to work with us to ensure speedy implementation. 


We will also have the opportunity to collaborate on safety improvements when we revisit the authorization of the Federal Aviation Administration later this year. 


The next Secretary of Transportation will also have a unique opportunity to show federal leadership in the advancement of transportation innovation.  V2V technology, autonomous vehicles, and unmanned aircraft systems, to name a few, have great promise to increase safety, improve efficiency, and spur economic growth. 


Secretary Chao will have a momentous opportunity to transform Americans’ transportation network by promoting safety and innovation, growing our nation’s freight network, advancing needed improvements to our infrastructure, and ensuring all users – both rural and urban –benefit equally.

Secretary Chao has consistently proven her willingness to roll up her sleeves and address the challenges facing our nation.  That is why I look forward to her confirmation as the next Secretary of Transportation, and I urge my colleagues to support her nomination.