President-elect Joe Biden is continuing his business-as-usual approach to filling out senior posts in his administration by selecting Pete Buttigieg—former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, and presidential contender—for his secretary of transportation.
Mayor @PeteButtigieg is a leader, patriot, and problem-solver. He speaks to the best of who we are as a nation.
I am nominating him for Secretary of Transportation because he's equipped to take on the challenges at the intersection of jobs, infrastructure, equity, and climate.
— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) December 16, 2020
Innovation in transportation helped build my hometown, and it propels our country.
Now is the time to build back better through modern and sustainable infrastructure that creates millions of good-paying union jobs, revitalizes communities, and empowers all Americans to thrive.
— Pete Buttigieg (@PeteButtigieg) December 16, 2020
As a former mayor of a midsized Midwestern town and a consultant before that, Buttigieg is hardly a career transportation wonk. His selection comes as a surprise to some observers who had expected or hoped Biden would pick either a public transportation veteran or a large city mayor well-versed in urban transportation issues.
Buttigieg's resume, however, isn't too out of step with past officials.
President Barak Obama's picks to lead the Department of Transportation (DOT) included a former mayor (Anthony Foxx) and a former state legislator (Ray LaHood). Elaine Chao, Trump's transportation secretary, is probably the most experienced of recent DOT heads, having served as a deputy secretary of transportation in the George H.W. Bush administration.
Obviously, politics is playing a role in Buttigieg's selection. The New York Times reports that Biden and Buttigieg bonded on the campaign trail and that Biden was set on finding some role for the former mayor in his administration.
As to his actual record, Buttigieg's transportation legacy seems to rest on his $25 million "Smart Streets" program that added bike lanes and trees to South Bend's downtown.
Streetsblog reports that Buttigieg's transportation plank for his 2020 presidential bid would massively boost spending on highways, public transportation, and intercity rail, none of which is great from a small government perspective.
On the positive side, he endorsed the idea of replacing the federal gas tax with a mileage tax, which would charge motorists for every mile they drive as opposed to how much gas they buy. That idea, which has been endorsed by Trump's Council of Economic Advisers, would shore up highway funding and get it closer to a user-fee model beloved by free marketers.
Josh Barro over at Business Insider suggests that Buttigieg's interest in foreign affairs might be valuable in his coming role as transportation secretary as he'll be able to ask other countries how they manage to complete transportation projects for way less money.
Elsewhere, Biden plans to nominate former Michigan Gov. Jennifer M. Granholm—who was apparently helpful in taking money from taxpayers and giving it to automakers—as his secretary of energy. She's since become an evangelist for renewable energy.
The New York Times reports that Biden's decision on who he'll pick to head the Environmental Protection Agency is being held up after "environmental justice" groups issued a letter condemning his initial choice—career environmental regulator Mary D. Nichols—over her record on "environmental racism." Biden is now reportedly searching for a more diverse candidate like Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti.
Ongoing challenges to the results of the 2020 presidential election have not stopped outgoing President Donald Trump from adding to his deregulatory legacy. On Tuesday, Trump's Department of Energy issued a new rule that loosens restrictions on how much water showerheads can emit.
The Washington Examiner has the details:
The Energy Department's move doesn't change the level of the water conservation standards set back in 1992, but it alters a definition set by the Obama administration requiring the entire showerhead fixture to meet a limit of 2.5 gallons of water per minute. The Trump administration's definition will allow each showerhead nozzle, even if there are several in a single fixture, to meet the 2.5 gallons per minute standard.
Though this is just a small win, it's also a reminder of just how intrusive federal regulations have become over the years.
Trump is reportedly weighing a pardon for Ross Ulbricht, who received two life sentences for his role in founding the Silk Road, an online drug marketplace.
Reports the Daily Beast:
According to three people familiar with the matter, the White House counsel's office has had documents related to Ulbricht's case under review, and Trump was recently made aware of the situation and the pleas of the Silk Road founder's allies. Two of these sources say the president has at times privately expressed some sympathy for Ulbricht's situation and has been considering his name, among others, for his next round of commutations and pardons before the Jan. 20 inauguration of his 2020 Democratic opponent.
- The United Nations has issued a new report finding that people are the cause of most of the world's problems. Thanks, guys.
- Trump is reportedly considering the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate Hunter Biden's business dealings.
- Showerheads aside, a new essay from the Cato Institute argues Trump will leave little lasting effect on federal regulatory policy.
- Los Angeles is suing the operators of an underground night club for throwing some bitchin' parties during coronavirus times.
- The latest COVID scold? Tom Cruise
- Politicians in Washington, D.C., have passed a bill requiring bars and restaurants to offer to hire back the staff they were forced to let go because of lockdowns imposed by D.C. politicians.