Wednesday, March 3, 2021
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Joe Biden picks primary rival Pete Buttigieg as transport secretary


Joe Biden, the US president-elect, has chosen Pete Buttigieg, one of his former rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination, to serve in his cabinet as secretary for transportation.

US media reported that Mr Biden had picked the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, for the position. The move would give the 38-year-old — a rising star in the Democratic party — a critical role in crafting policy on issues such as infrastructure and climate, which are expected to be a priority for the incoming administration.

The Biden transition team declined to comment.

Mr Biden, who has pledged to name the most diverse cabinet in history, is continuing to fill out his cabinet ahead of his January 20 inauguration, and Mr Buttigieg would be the first openly gay cabinet secretary if confirmed.

Mr Biden has named Lloyd Austin to be the first black defence secretary and Janet Yellen to be the first female Treasury secretary. He has also named Katherine Tai as the first Asian-American US trade representative. 

Mr Buttigieg was seen as a long-shot for the nomination when he launched his campaign, but the military veteran, who served in Afghanistan, rose to the top of the field and ended up winning the Iowa caucuses and coming second in the New Hampshire primary.

He was one of several contenders who dropped out immediately after Mr Biden resurrected his campaign with a win in South Carolina, paving the way for the former vice-president to defeat Bernie Sanders, the Vermont senator.

While Mr Biden and Mr Buttigieg clashed on the presidential debate stage, Mr Biden later said that Mr Buttigieg reminded him of his deceased son Beau, a former attorney-general and veteran who served in Iraq.

“I don’t think I’ve ever done this before, but he reminds me of my son, Beau,” Mr Biden said in March at a campaign event in Dallas where Mr Buttigieg endorsed his former rival.

Reports suggested Mr Biden might ask Mr Buttigieg to become ambassador to China, but some Democrats dismissed that notion, saying he would not want to be so far from Washington given his own political ambitions.

Mr Biden is expected to put a high priority on infrastructure policy, partly to rebuild the crumbling roads and bridges that plague parts of the US, but also to help create jobs to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Rodney Slater, a former Clinton administration transportation secretary, said Mr Buttigieg was a strong choice given his experience running a city.

“When you think about all that the president-elect has talked about in his Build Back Better plan, with it being centred on infrastructure, and having to deal with the implications for climate as it relates to that issue, you need someone with Pete Buttigieg’s talent and capability,” said Mr Slater, now a partner at Squire Patton Boggs in Washington.

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