WASHINGTON, D.C. — Elaine Chao, President Trump’s pick to become the nation’s new secretary of transportation, was overwhelmingly approved by the Senate on Tuesday.
Senators confirmed Chao for the Cabinet position in a 93-6 vote.
As leader of the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), Chao’s purview includes two agencies that have oversight of various aspects of pupil transportation: the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
In a Senate hearing on Jan. 11, Chao gave an indication of her outlook as a regulator.
“First and foremost, safety will continue to be the primary objective,” she said during the hearing. “Regulatory decisions should be rooted in analysis derived from sound science and data with risked-based analysis that prevents accidents before they occur, and considers both the cost and the benefits of new rulemakings.”
As previously reported, Chao served as secretary of labor for all eight years of George W. Bush’s presidency, 2001 to 2009. She was the first Asian American woman to be appointed to a president’s Cabinet in the nation’s history.
Chao also has government experience in the transportation sector. She has served as deputy secretary of the U.S. DOT, chairman of the Federal Maritime Commission, and deputy maritime administrator. She also has a more personal tie to the Washington establishment: She is married to U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).
Chao came to the U.S. as an immigrant from Taiwan at age 8. At the time, she spoke no English. She went on to earn an economics degree from Mount Holyoke College and an MBA from Harvard Business School.
The National School Transportation Association (NSTA) signaled its support for Chao when Trump initially nominated her.
“We look forward to working with her on issues affecting the private school bus industry and commend her for her long and distinguished record of leadership in government service,” NSTA said in a statement.
On Tuesday, Chao also got an endorsement from Ray LaHood, former U.S. secretary of transportation and now co-chair of infrastructure group Building America's Future.
“I am confident that under her leadership, the future of our roads, rails, runways, and transit systems will be in good hands,” LaHood said. “Secretary Chao has a strong understanding of Washington and how to engage the private sector, as well as the importance of consulting with mayors and governors.”