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Reports: Trump Will Nominate Elaine Chao To Be Transportation Secretary

elaine chao
Wikimedia Commons

President-elect Donald Trump will reportedly name Elaine Chao to be secretary of the Department of Transportation. Chao previously served as secretary of the Labor Department under President George W. Bush. She is married to U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell.

The position could be prominent in the first months of the new administration, when Trump has said he will make a major infrastructure proposal, including $1 trillion for roads, bridges and other public transportation projects.

Chao met with Trump last week in Trump Tower, at which time they “conversed about labor and transportation issues,” according to the president-elect’s transition team. She was a member of Trump’s Asian Pacific Advisory Council during his campaign.

Chao is the first Asian-American appointed to a U.S. president’s cabinet; she was the only cabinet official to serve with President George W. Bush during all eight years of his tenure.

During her time as secretary of labor, Chao updated the rules that designate which workers are eligible for overtime pay and tightened financial reporting requirements for unions.

A 2008 Government Accountability Office study showed that Chao’s Labor Department failed to investigate minimum wage, overtime and other complaints from low-wage workers.

The Transportation Department has 60,000 employees and a yearly budget of about $98 billion.

In a statement Tuesday, McConnell praised the move.

“I am so proud of Elaine as she continues her accomplished career in public service," McConnell said. "I am confident she will do an outstanding job for the nation in this new and important role.”

Chao resigned from the board of Bloomberg Philanthropies in 2015 after the foundation accelerated its commitment to its clean energy initiative. She said that her service on the board was incompatible with her commitments to Kentucky coal miners.

Chao moved to the U.S. when she was 8 years old, after her family fled Taiwan in the wake of the communist revolution in China.

She received a bachelor’s degree from Mount Holyoke College and an MBA from Harvard University. She also served as deputy transportation secretary under President George H.W. Bush.

Chao's nomination will have to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

Ryland Barton is the Managing Editor for Collaboratives. Email Ryland at rbarton@lpm.org.