Former Labor Secretary Picked For Transportation

By John Celock

President-elect Donald Trump has picked a longtime Washington insider who has held three top federal transportation jobs and is married to the Senate majority leader to be his transportation secretary.

Trump announced Tuesday that former Labor Secretary Elaine Chao is his pick to lead the Department of Transportation, a department expected to be at the forefront of his proposed $1 trillion infrastructure program. Chao, a former Wall Street banker, is married to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and has held a number of senior government posts, including deputy transportation secretary.

Chao, the first ever Asian-American woman to serve in a president’s cabinet, headed the Labor Department for eight years under President George W. Bush. Chao is the only Bush cabinet member to hold the same post for the administration’s entire eight years.

Chao earlier in her career was a vice president for syndications in the BankAmerica capital markets group and worked at Citicorp in New York. She first came to Washington as a White House fellow in 1983. In 1986, she was named deputy administrator of the Federal Maritime Administration and in 1988 was named chairwoman of the Federal Maritime Commissioner. In the first Bush administration, she served as deputy transportation secretary and director of the Peace Corps. She headed the United Way of America following her time at the Peace Corps.

Trump has said that the infrastructure plan is one of his top priorities, signaling an effort to rebuild roads, bridges and airports. Trump has not given specifics of his funding proposal for the plan but has indicated a series of tax credits to private companies that help to finance the plan.

Chao is the second wife of a Senate majority leader to serve in a president’s cabinet, following Elizabeth Dole, who was transportation secretary for President Ronald Reagan and labor secretary in the first Bush administration.