November 29, 2016 11:00 PM, EST

Trump Taps Former Labor Secretary Elaine Chao to Lead DOT

Chris Kleponis/ Bloomberg News

Former Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao has been chosen by President-elect Donald Trump to run the Department of Transportation under his watch.

The Trump transition team made the announcement Nov. 29. If confirmed by the Senate, Chao would succeed Anthony Foxx.

As DOT chief, Chao would be the point person driving the next administration's massive goals for infrastructure funding and myriad regulations. Trump has pledged to deliver legislation to Congress during his first 100 days in office that would aim to invest $1 trillion in infrastructure over 10 years by providing $137 billion in tax credits to companies. Trump’s plan would need congressional approval.

On the regulatory front, Trump is expected to roll back rules pertaining to commercial drivers’ work schedules.

Her nomination is the fourth for Trump’s cabinet.

“Secretary Chao’s extensive record of strong leadership and her expertise are invaluable assets in our mission to rebuild our infrastructure in a fiscally responsible manner,” Trump said. “She has an amazing life story and has helped countless Americans in her public service career."

"The president-elect has outlined a clear vision to transform our country's infrastructure, accelerate economic growth and productivity, and create good-paying jobs across the country,” Chao said. “I am honored to be nominated by the president-elect to serve my beloved country as transportation secretary.”

Chao led the Labor Department from 2001 to 2009, becoming the first Asian-American woman to hold a cabinet position. Before that, she was deputy secretary at DOT and chairman of the Federal Maritime Commission, according to background archived on the White House website. She earned degrees from Harvard Business School and Mount Holyoke College. She is married to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). 

American Trucking Associations President Chris Spear welcomed her nomination. Spear served as assistant secretary of policy at the Department of Labor from 2001 to 2004.

“I had the privilege of serving with and working closely with Secretary Chao during my time at the Department of Labor, and I am extremely pleased that she will be taking on this new challenge,” Spear said. “We are eager to support her as our country and our industry work to improve our roads and bridges, improve safety, and harness the potential that emerging technologies have to continue to move our country forward.”

Stakeholders and lawmakers praised Chao’s upcoming appointment to lead DOT.

Edward Hamberger, president of the Association of American Railroads, said Chao would help improve the country’s economy.

“The nation’s rail industry welcomes the president-elect’s selection and looks forward to working with Ms. Chao on the many critical surface transportation issues key to U.S. economic growth and prosperity.  We know based on her prior tenure at the Department of Transportation that she has a full appreciation of the vital role freight and passenger rail play in America,” Hamberger said.

Marcia Hale, president of Building America’s Future, an advocacy group, said she looks forward to collaborating with Chao on ways to enhance infrastructure funding in this country.

“As the data unequivocally shows, the decaying state of our roads, bridges, ports, inland waterways and airports hurts our quality of life and depresses our economic growth. We look forward to working with Secretary Chao to advance a long-term infrastructure investment plan that will create jobs and promote economic competitiveness,” Hale said.

On Capitol Hill, transportation policy authorizers said they welcome the opportunity to work with Chao at DOT.

“I am committed to working with Secretary Chao and President Trump to make responsible investments in our infrastructure, streamline transportation improvements, reduce regulatory burdens, encourage private-public partnerships, and encourage innovation to preserve and strengthen America’s economic competitiveness,” said Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.), chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee in the House.

“Chao has a distinguished record of serving the nation and has already shown she can work effectively with members on both sides of the aisle. Her leadership will benefit the Department of Transportation in guiding investment in our infrastructure and making transportation safer and better for the public,” said Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Commerce Committee, which oversees trucking policy.