[Congressional Record Volume 167, Number 19 (Tuesday, February 2, 2021)]
[Senate]
[Pages S220-S222]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]



             Nomination of Peter Paul Montgomery Buttigieg

  Mr. PETERS. Mr. President, I rise today in support of Pete 
Buttigieg's nomination to lead the Department of Transportation.
  Whether it is rebuilding our crumbling roads and bridges, maintaining 
our leadership in the global mobility race, or improving pipeline 
safety, there is no shortage of challenges facing our incoming 
Secretary.
  As a fellow midwesterner, as a former officer in the U.S. Navy 
Reserve, I can't think of anyone more equipped to take on this 
challenge than Pete Buttigieg.
  He understands the need to revitalize our infrastructure because he 
has seen it in our neighborhoods and on our roads each and every day 
when he served as a mayor.
  He has a unique understanding of how the Department can be a resource 
to State and to local governments and what can be done to ensure that 
the Federal Government supports those State and local governments and 
make sure that need gets addressed most effectively.
  If we are going to build back better, a partnership at each level of 
government will be absolutely vital. Having someone at the helm who 
recognizes that that relationship is so important will be an incredible 
asset to the Department.
  I have also had several conversations with Secretary-Designate 
Buttigieg on the auto industry, which is the very beating heart of our 
manufacturing economy. And as the industry advances both toward 
electrification and self-driving technologies, it will be critical that 
we support these technologies and make sure that they are safely 
deployed and that they are deployed here in the United States.
  We have an opportunity to save lives but also to create jobs and 
empower our domestic auto industry to take the moonshot for artificial 
intelligence and spur technological innovation, and I am pleased that 
Secretary-Designate Buttigieg has committed to working with us as we 
craft legislation that establishes a Federal framework around these new 
technologies.
  Finally, I am excited to work with Secretary-Designate Buttigieg on 
improving pipeline safety, especially around the Great Lakes.
  We know that line 5, under the Straits of Mackinac, poses a very 
serious threat to the Great Lakes. The Great Lakes are not only an 
economic driver and natural resource for our country, they are 
literally in the DNA of every Michiganian.
  As a midwesterner and as husband to a Michigan native who was born 
and raised in Traverse City, Secretary-Designate Buttigieg fully 
recognizes the need to protect the Great Lakes.
  I agree with Mayor Pete's belief that, as he says, ``good 
transportation policy can play no less a role than making possible the 
American dream.''
  I am proud to support Pete Buttigieg's historic nomination, which has 
already garnered bipartisan support, and I urge all of my colleagues to 
vote for him.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Tennessee
  Mrs. BLACKBURN. Mr. President, ahead of our votes today, I wanted to 
echo the concerns that have already been voiced by many of my 
colleagues in this Chamber regarding the nomination of Alejandro 
Mayorkas to be the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.
  At this point, we are all very familiar with his long legacy of 
service on behalf of people of the United States, so I will just 
highlight one example of the ``value'' that he will bring to the table 
should the Senate vote to confirm him.
  When he served as USCIS Director during the Obama administration, the 
inspector general was forced to investigate an ``extraordinary'' number 
of internal allegations that Mayorkas was granting ``special access and 
special favors'' to wealthy EB-5 ``investor visa'' applicants linked to 
influential Democrats.
  When the IG took a closer look at the visa applications for three 
powerful Chinese nationals in particular, they came to the conclusion 
that if Mayorkas hadn't intervened, and I am quoting, ``the matter 
would have been decided differently.''
  Now, this is something that we know is inappropriate. We know that 
this is something for which Mr. Mayorkas should be held accountable. We 
know that this is something for which he has not been held accountable, 
and here is what he did: He put his thumb on the scale, pressured his 
DHS colleagues--pressured his DHS colleagues--to break their own rules 
and turn the law on its head, all because a few powerful friends asked 
him to do it. He pressured others for the benefit of some powerful 
friends, and it is all there for everyone to read in the inspector 
general's report, and he was never held accountable. Yet, here we are, 
being asked to support his nomination to the President's Cabinet.
  There are plenty of policy differences between myself and Mr. 
Mayorkas that have convinced me I have no choice but to stand in 
opposition to his confirmation. But the example I just cited, in 
particular, gives me additional serious concerns about how his 
influence would affect the integrity of the Agency.
  Just last week, I joined several of my colleagues in a letter to the 
senior Senator from Illinois, asking him to exercise his judgment as 
the incoming chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and allow for a 
second hearing so we could examine Mr. Mayorkas's record thoroughly 
because, while I believe that the President has every right to assemble 
his Cabinet, I also believe that the American people have every right 
to understand exactly who is

[[Page S221]]

being put in charge of enforcing our Nation's immigration laws and 
keeping our border secure, enforcing counterterrorism measures and 
keeping an eye on the country's cybersecurity. And the current nominee? 
Never held accountable for showing favor to some friends in high 
places. That is not the way this is supposed to be.
  I would urge my colleagues to consider the American people--the 
taxpayers who are footing the bill for every salary that is given to 
every individual working with the Federal Government. What is the 
standard? What do they expect from their leaders?
  Thereby, I oppose the nomination.
  I yield my time.
  I suggest the absence of a quorum.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.
  The legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.
  Ms. CANTWELL. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order 
for the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
  Ms. CANTWELL. Mr. President, I come to the floor today to support the 
nomination of Pete Buttigieg to be Secretary of Transportation.
  We all know the nominee as Mayor Pete--a man who basically came on to 
the national stage as a Midwest mayor who had lots of enthusiasm for 
making investments in America's future. So today we are considering his 
nomination to be Secretary of Transportation at a time when we need a 
lot of work done on transportation. In my opinion, he is a young, 
energetic mayor who is going to help us usher in a new era of 
transportation. That means there is going to be a lot of bipartisan 
dialogue about how we get there. But this job should not be 
underestimated in terms of the importance of the transportation sector 
and the investments for the future that we need.

  Our transportation system serves as a backbone of our economy, and 
when it is not doing well, the consequential impact of that affects our 
economy. It affects how our businesses compete in a global economy. It 
affects how people get to and from work, and it affects their home life 
as well. So it is a big job that we have, and I know that this mayor 
and future Secretary of Transportation understands how big this 
challenge is.
  We have underinvested in our infrastructure for decades. In the past 
10 years alone, we have underfunded our infrastructure needs by $1.5 
trillion. The American Society of Engineers estimates that we need to 
invest $5.6 trillion in our infrastructure over the next two decades, 
or the United States stands to lose about $10.3 trillion in GDP. I know 
this because my State knows this. I think the Presiding Officer knows 
this as well. If the transportation infrastructure doesn't work, goods 
and services don't get through your ports, they don't get to their 
destination, and businesses choose other vehicles or other avenues for 
the products to be delivered. America needs to be competitive.
  The American public also knows that poor infrastructure and the 
problems they see in their communities have to be addressed, whether 
that is concrete crumbling off of bridges, delayed trains, buses, 
congestion, railroads, or any of many issues. Just this week, a highway 
in California slid into the ocean, disrupting traffic along the famous 
Highway 1, and this could be a delay for months. I know, again, the 
Presiding Officer understands this as well as the State of Washington. 
Mother Nature doesn't always comply with our transportation needs.
  So while these investments and numbers may seem huge to people, it is 
what this investment will enable that we need to keep focused on. We 
need to focus on the fact that the United States makes and grows 
things, and we need to get them to their destinations. We need people 
be able to get to their places of employment. So we need someone at the 
Department of Transportation who is enthusiastic about taking on these 
challenges and helping President Biden administer a new era of 
transportation and the challenges that we face.
  Mayor Buttigieg--a Harvard graduate, Rhodes Scholar, former U.S. 
Reservist who I believe served in Afghanistan--also understands the 
challenges of smalltown mayors and the impacts that transportation 
systems can have. He knows the challenges we now face because of COVID-
19, that there is a new burden on our transportation system because of 
the impact of lost revenue.
  State departments of transportation estimate $50 billion in lost 
revenues over the next 5 years. Airports have lost $23 billion because 
of people no longer flying. Transit agencies will have lost an 
estimated $50 billion by the end of 2021. These losses will continue to 
compound until we find the best way to protect our transportation 
workers, our travelers, and to continue to help with personal 
protective equipment, testing, vaccines, and clear, health-based 
protocols to help return safety to our transportation system and to 
build public confidence. That is one of the reasons why we are fighting 
so hard for this next package of investments.
  President Biden took decisive action by mandating that people wear 
masks, which is a giant step forward in our transportation system. I 
think there is more we can do, and hopefully our colleagues can work 
together on that.
  The long-term revenue outlet for transportation also is changing, and 
so it will be a long time before its recovery.
  So I believe that Mayor Pete Buttigieg is the right choice for this 
job because he was mayor of South Bend. He dealt with infrastructure 
where the rubber meets the road--managing State, Federal, and local 
resources to help build infrastructure in his community.
  He also helped facilitate public-private partnerships to make the 
dollars go farther, an important model for future investments in 
transportation. One of those projects, the South Shore double-track 
project, whose full funding grant agreement was signed earlier this 
month, is like many other State and local projects. The South Shore 
double track demanded impressive coordination between Federal, State, 
and local governments to bring it to fruition.
  Mayor Buttigieg's Smart Streets Initiative also shows he knows how to 
operate and succeed in the current environment and will be able to help 
communities around the country replicate the success he had in South 
Bend.
  He won't be the first mayor to be the Secretary of Transportation, 
but I think we can say that when you have a mayor in that job, they are 
going to pay attention to local transportation infrastructure 
investments to help our communities continue to grow and be 
competitive.
  We have a major opportunity, I believe, to now deliver on the 
infrastructure needs of many of those communities. We should start 
immediately by talking about infrastructure packages and working on a 
transportation infrastructure plan for the 21st century because it is 
clear we have opportunities this year, with the surface transportation 
programs expiring in September.
  Communities everywhere are demanding that we help work on these 
important issues for their communities, but Mayor Buttigieg will also 
be called on to think about the new era of transportation and how we 
maintain ou competitiveness. He will have to think about issues of 
ensuring safety with new autonomous vehicle technologies and unmanned 
aircraft. He will have to promote stronger emission standards for 
automobiles, aviation, and the maritime industry. He will have to 
support the continued growth of electric vehicle infrastructure. He 
will have to make big investments in game-changing projects that will 
help us move freight more cost-effectively through our Nation. People 
will want to know and understand what our reliable passenger rail, 
transit systems, roads, and investments in bridges are going to be for 
the future.

  So all of this is a big challenge, but I know that this nominee is up 
to that challenge. He did well at the committee in making sure that 
people understood that he believes that those challenges need to be 
addressed in order for America to continue to move forward.
  From my perspective, just in the State of Washington, before COVID 
had really hit, we saw 78 hours per year of delayed traffic; that is, 
the average commuter spent 78 hours in delayed traffic. A recent study 
in my State estimated that Washingtonians lost more than $7.4 billion 
each year in lost time

[[Page S222]]

and wasted fuel due to congestion, deteriorated roads, and safety 
problems. As America starts to head back to the office, no one wants to 
spend time back in that world of congestion, and so we need to make 
critical investments.
  People in Puget Sound know that we need to fix the West Seattle 
Bridge. They know in Southwest Washington that the Columbia River needs 
a new bridge across I-5. In Eastern Washington, they know that we need 
a north-south corridor. In Everett, they know that the trestle needs 
replacement if goods from Eastern Washington are going to get to the 
Port of Everett and out the door.
  All of these things are investments, and with them come the 
structures of things like at-grade crossings, passenger rail systems, 
and safety that are huge, I believe, infrastructure investments that 
have not been quite appreciated. I was very pleased to get Mr. 
Buttigieg's commitment during our session with him that these things--
at-grade crossings, port competitiveness, and moving products safely--
should be a big priority for the future.
  The Lander Street project in Seattle, which was an investment of the 
new freight program, is just a few blocks, but literally, congestion 
for hours had stopped traffic from getting from I-5 to the Port of 
Seattle. The Lander Street project in a lot of ways represents what it 
really is: a bridge to the future, a bridge to get people moving where 
they need to go, and the right investment, being competitive for the 
future. We are going to face many more delays if America doesn't remain 
competitive.
  So I look forward to working with Mr. Buttigieg on all of these 
issues. He also, during the committee hearing process, committed that 
he will continue to work with Senator Wicker and me on important issues 
of aviation safety. He committed to us that he understood that aviation 
safety and the FAA need to continue to make reforms. I believe that if 
you want to be the leaders in aviation, you have to be the leaders in 
aviation safety. I think Mayor Buttigieg understands that will be a 
very big job of the Department of Transportation as well.
  I enthusiastically support this nominee. I look forward to the type 
of focus he can give to the Department of Transportation. This area of 
our government right now needs to address the COVID crisis. It needs to 
help us plan for a better transportation system of the future. It needs 
to understand that this transportation infrastructure and investment in 
these changes in these sectors--cars, planes, and passenger systems are 
all very dynamic, changing industries, and so our competitiveness will 
be at stake as well.
  So I encourage my colleagues to support this nominee. I am sure we 
will hear a lot of discussion from him and a lot of bipartisan effort 
to help get our transportation system fully funded.
  I yield the floor
  Mr. VAN HOLLEN. Mr. President, I rise today to express my support for 
the nomination of Mayor Pete Buttigieg to be the Secretary of the 
United States Department of Transportation.
  I believe Mayor Buttigieg's experience serving the people of South 
Bend, IN, as mayor and his service in the U.S. Navy Reserve position 
him well to lead the Biden administration's ambitious infrastructure 
and climate-related agenda at the Department of Transportation.
  In coordination with Congress, Mayor Buttigieg will face numerous 
challenges as the Transportation Secretary concerning issues important 
to Marylanders.
  We must reauthorize WMATA to maintain and improve metro rail and bus 
service to Maryland's DC suburbs, develop transit solutions for 
Baltimore city and other jurisdictions throughout the State, and 
provide pandemic relief assistance for Maryland's motor coach and 
transit industries not included in the CARES Act and for whom the most 
recent bipartisan package was only a down payment.
  We also should focus on repairing and modernizing our infrastructure, 
investing in local projects, working with other Federal partners to 
expand access to broadband, addressing environmental concerns such as 
air and noise pollution plaguing our communities from air traffic, and 
connecting communities through the removal of aging infrastructure. As 
Secretary of Transportation, Pete Buttigieg will also play a vital role 
in implementing Presidents Biden's climate change agenda.
  As one of the youngest Cabinet Secretaries in decades and the first 
openly gay member of a Presidential Cabinet, Mayor Buttigieg's 
nomination presents an opportunity to bridge the gap between the 
Federal Government and younger generations of Americans and communities 
traditionally underrepresented by leadership in government.
  I am confident in Mayor Buttigieg's ability to take on these urgent 
challenges. And I look forward to voting yes on his nomination and 
working closely with him in the years ahead to tackle the issues facing 
our national infrastructure and transportation system.
  Ms. CANTWELL. I suggest the absence of a quorum.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.
  The bill clerk proceeded to call the roll.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Lujan). The Senator from Rhode Island.
  Mr. REED. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for 
the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.