Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

Biden’s pick for commerce confirmed


WASHINGTON — The Senate voted overwhelmi­ngly Tuesday to confirm Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo to serve as President Joe Biden’s commerce secretary and help guide the economy’s recovery during and after the coronaviru­s pandemic.

The vote was 84-15.

Raimondo, 49, was the first woman elected governor of Rhode Island and is serving her second term. She is a Rhodes Scholar and a graduate of Yale Law School who went on to become a venture capitalist before turning to politics.

Raimondo will be responsibl­e for promoting the nation’s economic growth domestical­ly and overseas. Republican opposition to her confirmati­on focused on concerns that she would not be forceful enough in confrontin­g the Chinese government’s efforts to gain an economic and technologi­cal edge through espionage.

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, in particular said he was concerned that she declined during her confirmati­on hearing to commit to keeping Chinese telecom giant Huawei on the department’s Entity List. U.S. companies need to get a license to sell sophistica­ted technology to companies on the list.

She subsequent­ly told senators she had no reason to believe that companies on the list should not be there. But that answer failed to sat- isfy Cruz. He said it would have been a simple matter for Raimondo to commit to keeping Huawei and others on the Entity List.

Biden has said China is in for “extreme competitio­n” from the U.S. under his administra­tion but that the new relationsh­ip he wants to forge need not be one of conflict.

The covid-19 pandemic, which originated in China, has also strained the relationsh­ip between the two countries with members of both U.S. political parties working to highlight any accommodat­ions they see the other side making toward China.

Much of Raimondo’s work will be focused on regional economic issues. Lawmakers from coastal states want help protecting valuable fishing industries. Lawmakers from rural states want greater investment in broadband. She confirmed her interest in working with them on those issues during her confirmati­on hearing and emphasized the need to tackle climate change. She noted as governor that she oversaw constructi­on of the nation’s first offshore wind farm.

“We’re looking for someone who can come in and help, with private sector experience, to really move the agenda of this administra­tion forward. So, for me, Gov. Raimondo’s private sector experience really means a lot,” said Sen. Maria Cantwell, the Washington Democratic chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transporta­tion.

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