RECAP: ELAINE CHAO'S CONFIRMATION HEARING

Few Details, and Fewer Fireworks for Trump's Transportation Secretary 

President Donald Trump’s pick for transportation secretary, Elaine Chao, enjoyed a largely friction-free confirmation hearing before the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee that involved a lot of talk about technological advancements, but not many specifics regarding the bus and trucking industries.

The Senate voted 93-6 in her favor.  

Trucking was raised by Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., who discussed making the regulatory process more transparent and responsive. Chao responded, “The great challenge for all regulators is to balance the ultimate goal of safety, but also to make sure the regulations are based on sound science and true data, and that the underlying analysis is solid.”

Elaine Chao had an easy confirmation hearing

Most of the hearing involved cordial exchanges between senators and Chao, with the senators talking about transportation-related issues they would like to focus on and Chao pledging to work with them.

Several senators on the committee mentioned autonomous vehicles. Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., for example, talked about how this emerging technology can eliminate most auto crashes and how it is “transformational,” on par with the first car to come off the assembly line.

He said many countries are moving aggressively to understand and be leaders in this technology, and he asked how engaged Chao would be in facilitating collaboration between government and innovators.

Chao said she understood the rapid advancement of this technology is “outstripping consumers’ ability to accept and understand” it, and she said she and the senators should embrace the role of bringing greater familiarity and comfort with autonomous vehicles to passengers and other stakeholders who will use the technology.

Specifically, Chao said, “We are facing new technologies, emerging technologies that will bring about great dislocations. How we as a society deal with that [without] stifling or dampening innovation — that’s the balance [we want]. It’s not an issue that can be decided by one person or one department. It requires national attention and discussion.”

Regarding infrastructure, Trump has proposeda $1 trillion infrastructure initiative that would be paid for in ways other than direct spending, such as incentivizing developers through tax credits. Chao offered few additional details at her confirmation hearing, but, when questioned by Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., she did say she thinks Trump’s infrastructure package would include at least some federal spending.

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