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Trump Nominates Elaine Chao To Be Transportation Secretary

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President-elect Donald Trump has named Elaine Chao to be secretary of the Department of Transportation. Chao previously served as secretary of the Labor Department under President George W. Bush and is married to U.S. Senator 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 the Labor Department, 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.

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 eight 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. He's covered politics and state government for NPR member stations KWBU in Waco and KUT in Austin. He has a bachelor's degree from the University of Chicago and a master's degree in journalism from the University of Texas. He grew up in Lexington.

Email Ryland at
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