12 August, 2020

U.S. Senate panel advances Ross, Chao nominations on voice vote

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A U.S. Senate committee swiftly approved Republican President Donald Trump's nominees for commerce and transportation secretaries by voice vote on Tuesday, signaling that they need to face little resistance to approval via the full Senate.

Members within the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee voiced no objections towards nominations of billionaire investor Wilbur Ross, 79, as commerce secretary and veteran government administrator Elaine Chao, 63, as transportation secretary.

Republicans control the Commerce committee by using a single vote.

The single voice elect the 2 nominees marked a stark contrast from Monday's 11-10 vote from the Senate Foreign Relations committee to transfer the nomination of former Exxon (NYSE:XOM) Chief Executive Officer Rex Tillerson to remain secretary of state. All Democrats on that panel voted against Tillerson.

Ross, a business turnaround expert who made his fortune getting distressed steel, textile, auto parts companies and banks, predicted to have a lead role in shaping Trump's trade policies. These include geared toward protecting U.S. manufacturers from imports, renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and pursuing bilateral trade deals after Trump signed the transaction on Monday to cancel the 12-country Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal.

Chao would play the key role in Trump's intend to significantly raise government shelling out for U.S. infrastructure, including roads and bridges, an initiative which has strong support from Democrats many Republicans.