WASHINGTON -- Elizabeth Dole, her nomination unanimously confirmed by the Senate, is set to take over as Transportation Secretary - the first woman department head in President Reagan's Cabinet.
Reagan also has nominated a second woman to the Cabinet -- former Rep. Margaret Heckler of Massachusetts as secretary of Health and Human Services -- but the Senate has not yet considered that nomination.
Without a whisper of dissent, the Senate confirmed Mrs. Dole Tuesday 97-0 after only a few perfunctory speeches in her behalf spread over two days.
Her most immediate pressing problem is the federal government's role in the independent truckers' strike that has flared into violence and threatens a possible shutdown on deliveries of fresh produce to cities.
Mrs. Dole, wife of Sen. Robert Dole, R-Kan., succeeds Drew Lewis, who left the Cabinet to take a high-paying post with the Warner-Amex firm.
Only Sens. Strom Thurmond, R-S.C., and Nancy Kassebaum, R-Kan., spoke on the nomination before the vote.
Thurmond said, 'In this post, as in others, she will serve her country and her president with utmost distinction.'
Mrs. Kassebaum took the moment to praise Washington Redskins running back John Riggins -- the hero of the Super Bowl -- a 'native son' of Kansas, and Mrs. Dole, the 'adopted daughter' of her state.
Several other senators, including Mrs. Dole's husband, Robert, gave speeches Monday.
The Doles become the highest-ranking couple in government, with Mrs. Dole making about $80,000 and her husband about $60,000.
Reagan nominated Mrs. Dole, 46, while she was White House assistant for public liaison. She previously served as a member of the Federal Trade Commission and presidential assistant for consumer affairs.
At her confirmation hearing, Mrs. Dole said auto safety would be the 'foremost mission' of the department under her stewardship and said she would be personally involved in areas of drunken driving, seat belts and infant seats.
Mrs. Dole listed her four long-term priorities as rebuilding and modernizing the air traffic control system; further deregulation of trucking; implementing plans for highway and mass transit work financed by the new 5-cent-a-gallon fuel tax; and reform of maritime regulations.