By LUKE BARR and ALLISON PECORIN, ABC News
(WASHINGTON) — The Senate on Tuesday confirmed Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo as commerce secretary by a vote of 84-15.
Raimondo is the first woman to serve as governor of Rhode Island as well as a former general treasurer of the state, and is credited with revamping the state’s pension system.
She also has won praise for the way the smallest state in the country has dealt with the COVID-19 pandemic, but has faced criticism over the vaccine rollout.
Her nomination was briefly put on hold by Texas GOP Sen. Ted Cruz who voiced concerns over how she would handle the Chinese telecom company Huawei.
She clarified her stance on Huawei saying there is “no reason” to remove it from the Commerce Department’s entity list – which is a restricted trade list.
“I understand that parties are placed on the Entity List and the Military End User List generally because they pose a risk to U.S. national security or foreign policy interests,” Raimondo wrote to senators. “I currently have no reason to believe that entities on those lists should not be there. If confirmed, I look forward to a briefing on these entities and others of concern.”
At her confirmation hearing in January she took a tough stance on China.
“China’s actions have been anti-competitive, hurtful to American workers and businesses, coercive, and, as you point out, they’re culpable for atrocious human rights abuses,” she said. “So whether it is the entities list or tariffs or countervailing duties, I intend to use all those tools to the fullest extent possible to level the playing field for the American worker. I believe in free trade but fair trade. America can compete if the rules are fair and the playing field is level, and I believe my job, should I be confirmed, is to increase the competitiveness for the American worker and companies, especially small businesses.”
While there weren’t any challenges on her work in venture capital or on clashes with unions around the Rhode Island pension fund, Cruz also challenged her on her job creation record in Rhode Island.
Raimondo responded that, during her time as governor, Rhode Island went from 50th to 26th on a Business Insider list of business-friendly states.
“My record is clear that we have created thousands of jobs for the people of Rhode Island and I would look forward to fighting for the American worker should I be confirmed,” she said.
Several senators also brought up that Raimondo is a maritime state governor, experience that lends well to leading The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. which falls under the Commerce Department.
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