Like Countable?

Install the App
TRY NOW

Trump Taps Elaine Chao as Secretary of Transportation

by Countable | 1.10.17

President-elect Donald Trump has chosen Elaine Chao, who made history by becoming the first Asian-American female Cabinet member as President George W. Bush’s Secretary of Labor, to head the Department of Transportation. "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 in a statement.

Who is Elaine Chao?

Chao, 63, was born in Taipei, Taiwan, to parents who had fled the Chinese mainland in 1949 as a result of the civil war between the nationalists and the communists. She was 8 when her family, including three younger sisters, migrated to New York, eventually settling in Long Island. Her father, James, a seafaring captain back in Taiwan, would go on to attain an MBA from St. John’s University and to found The Foremost Group, an international shipping and trading enterprise that he still chairs at age 89.

Chao graduated in 1975 with a B.A. in economics from Mount Holyoke College and in 1979 with an MBA from Harvard. She went to work in executive positions at Bank of America and Citicorp and earned a White House fellowship in 1983 before being named deputy secretary of Transportation under President George H.W. Bush in 1989.

In 1991 and ’92, she directed the Peace Corps, becoming the first Asian-American to do so and, as she watched the Soviet Union crumble, the first director to extend the volunteer group’s reach into Eastern Europe and Central Asia. She left to become president and CEO of United Way and later joined The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, as a distinguished fellow. The only Cabinet member to retain her post for the entirety of George W. Bush’s presidency, she returned to the Heritage Foundation in 2009.

Chao has been married to current Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) since 1993 and sits on the board of several nonprofit organizations and corporations. She has been a frequent contributor to Fox News broadcasts and has received 36 honorary doctorates as well as the 2011 Woodrow Wilson Award for Public Service.

What's the outlook for her confirmation?

Strong. Despite mixed reviews from the Democrats about her effectiveness as Labor secretary, she can count on supporters on both sides of the aisle. In fact, incoming Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) congratulated her on her nomination and expressed the hope that she will expedite an infrastructure plan that the president-elect has said will require Congress to pass a "trillion-dollar stimulus" bill.

The Republicans have been less than enthusiastic about Trump’s plan. Some have even been openly skeptical of Chao’s support of it and of her recent comment that a "cash infusion" might indeed be necessary to repair the country’s creaking infrastructure.

What does the Department of Transportation do?

It develops and maintains the U.S. public transportation systems and infrastructure. It does so with nearly 60,000 employees and a budget that in Fiscal Year 2014 was $77.2 billion. Some of that is used to assist state and local governments in the development and maintenance of ground transportation, including roadways and public transit, and to regulate commercial air travel and airports. Among its high-profile subagencies are the Federal Aviation Administration, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.

- Erin Wright

(Photo Credit: Helene Stikkel / Public Domain)

Countable

Written by Countable

Leave a comment
(300)
  • Christopher
    01/11/2017
    ···

    Despite some professional successes her performance as Secretary of Labor during the Bush Administration revealed an executive more involved with political support of the President than fulfilling the goals of the agency she represented. The nomination process should question her management skills and ability to lead such a complex agency as DOT.

    Like (18)
    Follow
    Share
  • Monica
    01/13/2017
    ···

    While Ms. Chao may be considered a known quantity in DC, she still needs vetting for this new role. We need to clearly know if she has conflicts of interest, as well as the knowledge and experience needed for leadership if this unit. Her relationship as wife of Mr. McConnell does give an air of cronyism and nepotism, and certainly is not an example of "draining the swamp."

    Like (18)
    Follow
    Share
  • Nancy
    01/11/2017
    ···

    Very often it is not impropriety that does the damage but the appearance of it - and quite frankly this cabinet pick reeks of nepotism and favoritism. Representation is supposed to represent the people not your political cronies. Shame on anyone supporting this banana republic government.

    Like (11)
    Follow
    Share
  • Constanza
    01/11/2017
    ···

    In an ideal government, cabinet appointments should not only be vetted but qualified for the positions they hold. Since our president elect is not qualified to hold office, all I ask is that those around him be fully vetted and have some ability to fill these roles or we have four years of a house of cards that will hurt the American people, set back our progress, and potentially cripple the next generation.

    Like (10)
    Follow
    Share
  • Kate
    01/13/2017
    ···

    Has extreme vetting been completed? She has an excellent resume but no experience in the areas necessary to direct the Department. How is this draining the swamp when she's married tithe swamp leader?????

    Like (9)
    Follow
    Share
  • Heidi
    01/14/2017
    ···

    It is interesting that she was not nominated for the secretary of labor. However, she seems to be one of the most qualified candidates nominated for a position, and has headed up a number of government agencies. Well there is clearly some hint of nepotism or cronyism given her marriage to Senator McConnell, it appears she is capable and experienced in her own right. And I hate to further the sexist notion that women in politics and government can only be successful riding on the coattails their husbands, which was an argument that some conservatives used against Hillary.

    Like (8)
    Follow
    Share
  • civilgirl
    01/11/2017
    ···

    No vote on any cabinet nominee until complete background checks, etc. are complete and reviewed.

    Like (7)
    Follow
    Share
  • Leslie
    01/11/2017
    ···

    Please hit hard on what exactly are her qualifications other than whom she is married to. Thank you.

    Like (7)
    Follow
    Share
  • Danielle
    01/11/2017
    ···

    This appointment must be properly vetted. I'm very concerned about a conflict of interest due to her husband being Mitch McConnell. Also, we need a new deal type infrastructure package to fix our roads and bridges, and exams light rail and other forms of energy efficient transportation. This cannot be done with private funding.

    Like (7)
    Follow
    Share
  • Maggiep
    01/11/2017
    ···

    Conflict of interest. No experience. Huh. I wouldn't get hired by any company in the US with this on my resume. Why should she?

    Like (6)
    Follow
    Share
  • Karla
    01/12/2017
    ···

    This appointment is in line with the rest of Trump's picks: based on favors, nepotism and cronyism rather than expertise and judgment. Please vote nay.

    Like (6)
    Follow
    Share
  • Daniel
    01/11/2017
    ···

    She needs to be vetted as well. Her job performance and ethics as well. We are supposed to be draining the swamp not filling it with new monsters.

    Like (6)
    Follow
    Share
  • Agerhard
    01/11/2017
    ···

    I strongly urge you to slow down and take the proper time to vet these candidates. There are clear conflicts of interest here, as with other nominees, and fast tracking them is clearly a partisan move. It is instilling deep distrust amongst your constituents regarding your judgement.

    Like (6)
    Follow
    Share
  • DeniseLynn
    01/11/2017
    ···

    All of Trump's nominees must be vetted thoroughly lest the GOP appear to not want to hold their own to the same standards they demanded of Obama's nominees

    Like (6)
    Follow
    Share
  • Nicole
    01/11/2017
    ···

    I like that she's in favor of investing in infrastructure but not that she's McConnell's wife. This administration already has too many conflicts of interest and nepotism problems.

    Like (5)
    Follow
    Share
  • Debby
    01/11/2017
    ···

    I don't think it's ethical that she is McConnell's wife. Trump can't find anyone else's?

    Like (5)
    Follow
    Share
  • Amy
    01/11/2017
    ···

    Republican Party so corrupt. Treasonous traitors

    Like (5)
    Follow
    Share
  • Eleanor
    01/12/2017
    ···

    No vote on any cabinet nominee until complete background checks, etc. are complete and reviewed.

    Like (5)
    Follow
    Share
  • Lisa
    01/10/2017
    ···

    She's married to McConnell and part of the Heritage Foundation. That should tell you all she is not ok.

    Like (5)
    Follow
    Share
  • Lettice
    01/10/2017
    ···

    While not the worst choice in the cabinet, Chao has major conflicts of interest.

    Like (5)
    Follow
    Share