Pete Buttigieg is the New Secretary of Transportation

By Elizabeth Brotherton-Bunch
Feb 02 2021 |
Pete Buttigieg told Senators at his confirmation hearing that the “Department of Transportation can play a central role” in reviving the struggling economy “by implementing President Biden’s infrastructure vision.” Gage Skidmore

Now the former mayor of South Bend, Ind., will be tasked with advancing much of President Biden’s Build Back Better plan.

The Senate on Tuesday confirmed Pete Buttigieg to be the next Secretary of Transportation.

Buttigieg, the first openly gay person to be confirmed to a cabinet position, will be charged with leading the way on advancing President Biden’s “Build Back Better” plan to invest in infrastructure and clean energy (think: electrical vehicle charging stations).

And like his new boss, Buttigieg has emphasized the importance of making sure as much of this work is done in the United States as possible.

He faced some tough questions on the matter from Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) during his Senate confirmation hearing a couple of weeks ago. For example, Baldwin specifically noted that while Congress passed legislation decades ago requiring manufactured products be subject to Buy America rules, the Transportation Department has provided a blanket waiver for many goods made outside the United States, including things like traffic lights and highway signs and cones.

That could soon change, Buttigieg suggested. “The goal is to make sure as much as possible of this is made in America,” Buttigieg told Baldwin.

Infrastructure investment in general dominated Buttigieg’s confirmation hearing, and for good reason.

For one, it’s falling apart – the American Society of Civil Engineers gives America’s infrastructure a D+ rating. Our crumbling bridges, water systems, electric grid, transit systems, airports, roads, pipelines and more hurt the United States economically by making us less competitive on the global stage, and sadly have even cost lives.

But investing to rebuild that infrastructure will create millions of new jobs and provide a huge boost to the economy at a time when it is struggling to rebound from the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic. And if Buy America provisions are included, we’ll double down on that investment, ensuring taxpayer dollars go right back into American workers and communities.

Meanwhile, the United States is long overdue to invest in clean energy infrastructure, and policymakers need to take steps to ensure we don’t trade foreign oil for Chinese-made windmills.

Here’s another example. Just last week, General Motors announced it plans to completely pivot to making solely zero-emission vehicles by 2035. But for GM to succeed, it is going to need to ensure consumers feel comfortable buying electric vehicles – and that means dramatically increasing the number of electric vehicle charging stations throughout the country (the Biden administration has said it wants to build 500,000 of them).

It’s a good sign the Biden administration has made infrastructure policy a priority. But previous presidential administrations have made similar pledges without getting the job done. Talk is cheap; implementation is crucial.

Still, we’re eternal optimists here at the Alliance for American Manufacturing, and we stand ready to help the Biden administration in its efforts to Build Back Better.

“Building Made in America infrastructure will create good-paying jobs and invest in American companies and communities at a critical time,” said AAM President Scott Paul. “Our nation has an historic opportunity to transform our transportation systems with American workers and American materials. We look forward to working with Secretary Buttigieg to boost investment and Buy America rules, and ensure that the TIVSA law is strongly enforced.”