By on January 31, 2017

Elaine Chao

The U.S. Senate voted ninety-three to six to confirm Elaine Chao as transportation secretary on Tuesday.

Chao, a former labor secretary and deputy transportation secretary, will face familiar issues while providing oversight on some new obstacles — specifically, autonomous vehicles and upholding President Trump’s promise to improve the nation’s infrastructure. 

However, during her confirmation hearing earlier in the month, she neglected to take a strong stance on several key issues. She has yet to express her thoughts on public safety concerns over the transportation of oil by rail, the privatization of air traffic control jobs, and if there is any need for regulation on fast-advancing automotive technologies.

“As the next Secretary of Transportation, Elaine Chao will have the unique opportunity to advance new and transformative safety innovations like self-driving vehicles,” said the Self-Driving Coalition for Safer Streets, a pro-autonomous lobbying group for Waymo, Uber, Lyft, Volvo, and Ford.

“We congratulate Secretary Chao on today’s confirmation, and we look forward to working with her on delivering the promise of self-driving technology to make our neighborhoods safer and enhance mobility for the disabled and disadvantaged.”

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48 Comments on “Senate Confirms Trump’s Pick for Transportation Secretary...”

  • avatar

    OK, there’s one cabinet member who I won’t automatically think of when “special bulletin” suddenly comes up on the television.

    Thank God.

  • avatar

    Let’s see. She’s married to Mitch McConnell. Trump says he’s for term limits. McConnell says, “Not Happening.” So Trump names his wife DOT Secretary. Curious.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      Hello, ruggles – long time no see (at least for me). Welcome back.

      As for your comment – yes, it is curious. But at least she has some prior experience with the DOT.

      Autonomous driving is a perfect example where some regulation is appropriate, and I hope she tackles it quickly. But there are a host of more pressing matters, also.

    • 0 avatar

      Ruggles – I hope we see some progress in breaking down state-level legislation that forces consumers to pay higher prices for new cars as they now have to deal with scumbag, franchise protected parasitic dealerships in almost every state.

      • 0 avatar

        I thought this was determined at the state level. Are you suggesting that the Dept. of Transportation can allow carmakers to distribute direct? I am honestly asking because I don’t understand how the law works in this case.

      • 0 avatar

        This could be a federal government issue, but it would be one for Congress, not the DOT or any other executive branch agency.

        Congress could determine (accurately) that new car sales all involve interstate commerce, and adopt federal legislation pre-empting state franchise laws as they apply to new car dealers.

        But Congress would never bother to do that, because Republicans are meaningfully funded by car dealers and Democrats don’t care enough about the issue to have a balls-to-the-wall fight about it.

        • 0 avatar

          Thanks, dal,
          That makes sense.

          • 0 avatar

            Dal beat me to it.

            A legal argument could be made that insterstate commerce clause trumps (no pun) state law, but it would be. Stretch (IMO).

            Also, Republicans are complete hypocrites in invoking 10th Amendment (states’ rights) when it’s a cause they want pushed, yet ignoring it when it doesn’t suit their agenda.

            I have equally important criticisms of Democrats, for the record, before anyone accuses me of being either a Dem or Repub (I’m truly, genuinely neither; having to conform to dogma is bad form & interferes with rationality).

          • 0 avatar

            I don’t think it would remotely be a stretch to argue that new car sales are in the realm of interstate commerce. Every single new car involves multiple states in the production and distribution process. IMO Congress could pass a bill making the regulation of new car sales a matter of federal law overnight, and there would be very little ground to challenge it.

            The problem for consumers is that the only situation in which that is a remotely likely outcome is a situation where Tesla and its ilk start to get franchise laws reformed in multiple big states, and the federal government steps in to *protect* the dealers. The car dealers really are major funders of the Republicans, and the Democrats have bigger fish to fry.

        • 0 avatar

          “But Congress would never bother to do that, because Republicans are meaningfully funded by car dealers and Democrats don’t care enough about the issue to have a balls-to-the-wall fight about it.”

          Car sales are not such an exciting topic in Washington for there to be any particular reason to federalize them.

          In this case, it’s not a partisan issue. Nobody gives a s**t, and frankly, they’re mostly right not to care.

      • 0 avatar

        DW, that would run completely against form. As near as makes no difference all car dealers are owned by GOP supporting donors; individuals and organizations. The Free Market is a great idea until your market is the one being freed.

    • 0 avatar

      I am no fan of this woman and I cite this as exhibit A:

      However barring some deep moves I just can’t see, I’d say this is a combination of affirmative action strikes again and possibly trading favors as you imply.

      They keep reusing Chao for minor roles so she must be somewhat competent and is probably a team player. Earlier in life she was also juiced into the Citi bankster cartel which may not matter much now. I still wonder about her family’s ties to ruling families in Taiwan/PRC/Hong Kong but it may just be Dad’s success which ties her in to the elites.

      “Before entering politics, Chao was Vice President for syndications at Bank of America Capital Markets Group in San Francisco, California, and an International Banker at Citicorp in New York for four years.[14] Chao’s first job was secretary of her father’s shipping company, hence a Taiwanese press outlet released a news report titled “From secretary (clerk) to Secretary (Minister)” after her Transportation Secretary nomination by President Trump.[15]
      She was granted a White House Fellowship in 1983 during the Reagan Administration. In October 2013, Chao told a game show audience that the fellowship was part of a special program with Citicorp. “They selected outstanding performers within the bank and gave them an opportunity to support them for a stint in the government,” Chao said”

      Right Elaine, because all outstanding performers in the private sector just do “stints” in D.C. She was probably used as a trusted messenger between Citi and members of Fedgov.


      • 0 avatar

        28 I mostly agree with you however the affirmative action is dead wrong. There is only one reason she has this job and its due to favors.

        • 0 avatar

          I seem to recall the President under fire for his cabinet picks and Chao fills the artificial qualifications of female and minority. Maybe this was just a nice bonus and the real motivation was strictly quid pro quo? Very possible.

          • 0 avatar

            I see it as a gesture to get McConnell on Trump’s side, for the duration.

            We have to keep in mind that Trump has a reason, a motive, for anything he does to accomplish his agenda.

            Chao is highly qualified, but so were hundreds of others. Only Chao has that all important connection to the Senate Majority Leader.

            Smooth move, Exlax.

          • 0 avatar

            What makes you “wonder” about her ties to Chinese ruling familes? Is there any reliable source you can cite or it it only because of her heritage?

            Likewise, what evidence was there about cocaine trafficking in her father’s company? Traffickers find ways to hide cocaine in shipments of anything they can, just because his ship was found with it does not mean he knew, condone, or participated in it. Here’s a very recent article about another case of cocaine trafficking, apparently a bunch of it was found in the nosecone of an American Airlines plane. Nobody is accusing the CEO of being a trafficker.

            And according to the wikipedia articles you provided, she is a very well qualified candidate and has earned the respect of her colleagues and those in congress. I saw her confirmation hearing and it was apparent there as well.

            Now, I don’t doubt she was nominated to curry favors with Mitch, but to suggest she is not qualified, has ties to foreign governments, and daughter of a cocaine trafficker is without a gram of merit and smacks of racist undertones.

      • 0 avatar

        Your downfall is always that you’re too conspiracy minded. The bank gets a lot out of these government fellowships; it gets staff who understand the inner workings of the regulators, which is a really big deal when you are regulated as tightly as banks are.

        Chao was ambitious, smart, and effective. She performed well at the bank, and then she performed well in her temporary stint at the government. That allowed her to make the permanent leap to government in 1996, and she met Sen. McConnell shortly thereafter. Now, she is perfectly positioned for all imaginable reasons. Nonwhite female conservative leaders are rarer than hen’s teeth, so she is valuable for diversity. But she’s also substantively smart, capable, and of course beyond well-connected. Any conservative administration would be stupid *not* to put her in it somewhere.

  • avatar

    This was the least controversial of El Presidente’s pics.

    • 0 avatar

      PrincipalDan – Yes, and as long as there are no pussyhats in her closet…..

    • 0 avatar

      On the surface, I agree. She had a stint as deputy transportation secretary, and ran Labor as well as the Peace Corps. I can’t really point to an accomplishment during that time, but at least she has appropriate experience and interest in the department. You can’t say that about several of her peers.

      But the whole Taiwan thing is a little odd. Her Taiwanese family has given many millions of dollars to husband Mitch McConnell. I guess that’s normal amongst the wealthy. But then, one of Trump’s first acts as president elect was to set off a firestorm with the Chinese by favoring Taiwan and questioning our longstanding ‘One China’ policy.

      Those aren’t necessarily related, and I am not big on conspiracy theories. But it bears watching.

      • 0 avatar

        Trump isn’t taking any cues from Mitch McConnell. If someone had given Steve Bannon or Steve Miller a bunch of Taiwanese money, there might be reason to think.

        • 0 avatar

          Cause’ I’m a picker
          I’m a grinner
          I’m a lover
          And I’m a sinner
          Playin’ my music in the sun
          I’m a joker
          I’m a smoker
          I’m a mid-night toker
          I get my lovin’ on the run
          Ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh

      • 0 avatar

        “But then, one of Trump’s first acts as president elect was to set off a firestorm with the Chinese by favoring Taiwan and questioning our longstanding ‘One China’ policy.”

        They are probably not related. The Trump administration’s relations with Taiwan are largely due to John Bolton’s presence in an advisory role – he’s long been a supporter of Taiwan and detractor of China. Trump’s Treasury pick is anti-China for economic reasons. Also, Trump’s inner circle appears to have significantly smaller business interests in the PRC.

        Elaine Chao’s family fled to Taiwan after the Chinese Civil War. There are exceptions, but “mainlanders,” as we call them in Taiwan, are almost exclusively in the “pan-blue” camp of Taiwanese politics. They identify with the Republic of China (ROC), which in their minds is the rightful government of China and Taiwan. They believe very strongly in the One China policy (but disagree over which China it refers to). You know Taiwan can only compete in the Olympics as “Chinese Taipei”? It’s because Chiang Kai-Shek’s son was upset at being told that Taiwan couldn’t represent China in the Games anymore, and refused to compete as Taiwan because that would weaken Taiwan’s claim on China. The pan-blues NEED the One-China policy, otherwise the ROC ceases to exist.

        Assuming Ms. Chao is pan-blue, she would want Trump to express support for the status quo and not encourage the pan-greens.

        The “pan-green” camp favors Taiwanese independence from the ROC and by extension from the PRC. That side was brutally supressed under Chiang Kai-Shek and son’s dictatorships (which is why they reject the ROC) but is now on the ascendency. The current president of Taiwan isn’t going to declare independence if it means war – Taiwan’s de facto independence is good enough for most of the population – but will be trying to shore up international support in order to make the current situation sustainable for longer despite China’s increasing ability to threaten Taiwan militarily and economically.

        • 0 avatar

          carlisimo, Trump was talking his trash loooooong before he even had a campaign team, or John Bolton as an advisor.

          To me it seems clear that Trump is going to turn international relations upside down.

          There were his criticisms of NATO, Angela Merkel, China’s money manipulation, Iran’s nuclear deal, Mexico’s criminal illegal aliens, etc.

          All that started long before he declared himself a candidate. Based on his bombast, he was urged by many to run for prez. And he did. The rest is history.

          The Left should really look at the bigger picture of Trump — it goes back a long way. He was on the Left at one time.

          Trump is going to redefine America’s global relationships and elevate America’s standing among nations.

          He’s going to p!ss off a lot of nations, but they’ll come around to his way of thinking if they want to have a relationship with Donald J. Trump’s America.

          People have underestimated Trump, much to their own chagrin.

          I’m not a fan but he’s a formidable personality in this world. The Left needs to buckle up for Mr Toad’s wild ride.

          • 0 avatar

            “elevate America’s standing among nations”

            I seriously doubt that. His immigration ban is already hurting tech companies. Other countries are taking advantage of the situation.

            He pisses off large countries like China and India and alliances will shift accordingly. Russia is eagerly waiting and watching.

            “The Left needs to buckle up for Mr Toad’s wild ride.”

            There is more than just the left expecting a wild ride.

    • 0 avatar

      I’d have said Mattis at first…but Chao didn’t need a military waiver, so you’re probably right.

  • avatar

    God almighty – she wakes up in the morning, runs her fingers through Mitch’s chins, and says “mornin’ lover”..”

    Oh god please help me un-think this….

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    So much for draining the swamp and getting rid of the Washington Establishment. She might not be as bad many of Trump’s appointments but she is a definitely an experienced insider married to a career politician that might end up being the longest serving Senator after Robert Byrd.

    • 0 avatar

      Sometimes “the swamp” is really not so bad. She’s experienced, knowledgeable, and has proven effective. We need more people like that, not less, in government. If all of Trump’s senior picks were remotely as capable as she is, I’d be a lot less concerned about the Trump administration (although I’d still disagree with it most of the time).

      • 0 avatar

        This isnt a portfolio worth mentioning. You want to argue something, argue about Tillerson or Munchin…

        Its clear this is a ‘diversity’ draft pick. They need a black man (Ben Carson) and they need more women and they need some Asian representation.

        I believe they already have an Indian (or east asian) pick, that being the FCC chair.

        I’m surprised they didnt throw a bone to Bobby Jindal.

  • avatar

    “In the spirit of our racist, hateful platform let’s put an Asian lady in charge of driving! That’ll punish the masses.”

    …as they chuckle among themselves.

  • avatar

    Michelle Obama: “When they go low, we go high”
    It’s not surprising to read all of the racist, sexist, and xenophobic comments on these boards. TTAC must be proud.

  • avatar

    Please cite specific examples of sexist, racist, or xenophobic comments above. I don’t see any; it seems like a very fact-based discussion. But I could be wrong. Please be specific.

  • avatar

    She met Trump’s only requirement…. she’s a 7

  • avatar

    It would be nice to have increased Amtrak passenger rail service and frequency. Although I have a strong passion for automobiles, I have an even stronger passion for passenger rail.

    Hopefully, she’s for that as well.

  • avatar

    This pic of her is like 20 years ago….I hate it when they do that.

    • 0 avatar

      That’s still how Mitch sees her through his smeared Coke-Bottle lenses.

      Kinda like every one of Kirk’s love interests on Star Trek.

      I’m being unkind, like the President – I should strive to be more civil.

  • avatar

    Some of us in the general aviation world view her appointment with some trepidation as it’s not clear where she stands on the issue.

    The proposals to privatize ATC are driven by the airlines who would rather pay fees for ATC service than a fuel tax (which is how current ATC costs are funded). Since a jet burns an awful lot of fuel, a $50 or $100 charge (which is an estimate) to use ATC services for a flight is a substantial cost reduction. For someone flying a single-engine Piper Archer, it’s a major additional cost.

    • 0 avatar

      ATC vendors with a profit motive – what could go wrong? Especially since a Trump Admin would do little to regulate the industry.

      Soon, it may be safer to live in your basement (as long as you have a good radon vent).

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