Donald Trump Picks Elaine Chao as Transportation Secretary
Wife of Senate Majority Leader McConnell earlier served as secretary of labor under President George W. Bush.
President-elect Donald Trump has selected Elaine Chao to be his transportation secretary on Tuesday. Ms. Chao, who is married to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, would join South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, tapped for U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, and charter-school advocate Betsy DeVos, picked for education secretary, as women named to top roles in the Trump administration.
If confirmed, she would play a key role in what Mr. Trump hopes to be his first legislative victory: A major infrastructure bill to rebuild America’s highways and bridges, which some Republicans in Congress have resisted under the Obama administration.
Ms. Chao, 63 years old, was the first American woman of Asian descent to be appointed to the cabinet when she was named secretary of labor by President George W. Bush in 2001. She served all eight years that Mr. Bush was in office, and was his only cabinet member to do so. She also served as deputy secretary of transportation in the administration of President George H.W. Bush. A Harvard Business School graduate, Ms. Chao was a banker at Citigroup and president and chief executive officer of the United Way of America before she joined the Bush administration.
Ms. Chao, whose post is subject to confirmation by the Senate, would inherit a landscape of record safety recalls in the automotive industry and urgent efforts to police development of self-driving cars.
Ms. Chao and a forthcoming new head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration would face pressure in managing an unprecedented air-bag safety crisis. Auto makers recalled more than 50 million vehicles in the U.S. in 2015 and a breath-neck pace continues this year, spurred in part from rupture-prone air bags produced by Japanese supplier Takata Corp. Regulators will spend 2017 continuing special oversight of General Motors Co. in the wake of the auto maker’s 2014 recall of millions of older vehicles with defective ignition switches linked to 124 deaths. That recall sparked an unprecedented government crackdown on automotive safety transgressions that could be sustained or relaxed during the Trump administration. Regulating self-driving cars would present another potential challenge for Ms. Chao and other officials. The Obama administration endorsed the development of self-driving cars in recent months, citing the technological promise of reducing traffic fatalities. But officials also expect auto makers to comply with new voluntary guidelines that call for them to self-certify driverless cars before they hit the road, detailing items such as safeguards should technologies fail. Ms. Chao also would have a seat at the table for environmental policy, as U.S. highway safety regulators have legal authority to craft fuel-economy rules.
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