Trump taps former labor chief Elaine Chao as next transportation secretary

Updated Dec 6, 2016

Several media outlets with sources inside President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team are reporting that Trump has selected Elaine Chao as the next head of the U.S Department of Transportation.

The choice is expected to be formally announced later today, according to the New York Times, which says its report is “confirmed by someone with direct knowledge of Mr. Trump’s decision.”

Chao served as labor secretary in the George W. Bush administration and was the only official, the Times reports, to serve in his cabinet for all eight years of his presidency.

The first Asian-American woman to serve in a cabinet position, Chao is the wife of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Trump has stated many times that boosting infrastructure projects will be a focus of his administration and Chao’s experience as the head of the Labor Dept. along with her familiarity with D.C. politics could well be an asset in assisting Trump in fulfilling those promises. And this won’t be Chao’s first time serving inside the Transportation Dept. as she was the deputy secretary of transportation under President George H.W. Bush from 1989 to 1991, CNN reports.

However, during her time as labor secretary, Chao received criticism from organized labor, the Times reports, “whose leaders accused her of being too cozy with business interests.” And there is some worry over whether her relationship with McConnell will be a conflict of interest in infrastructure bill negotiations, CNN reports.

Association of Equipment Manufacturers president Dennis Slater issued the following statement in response to news about Chao’s nomination:

AEM congratulates Elaine Chao on her nomination to become the next U.S. Secretary of Transportation. Her nomination deserves swift confirmation by the U.S. Senate.

One of the foremost tasks facing the next Secretary of Transportation will be helping President-elect Trump realize the robust infrastructure investments about which he had spoken so passionately on the campaign trail. The equipment manufacturing industry looks forward to working with Secretary-designate Chao to help form and enact this important initiative. 

Secretary-designate Chao has already distinguished herself during her years of government service, both as a former Secretary of Labor and as a former deputy Secretary of Transportation. AEM is confident that we will have a partner to advance our nation’s infrastructure needs in Secretary Chao.