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Biden taps Buttigieg to lead transportation, Granholm to head energy

President-elect Joe Biden announced Tuesday former South Bend, Indiana, mayor Pete Buttigieg (shown) as transportation secretary nominee. UPI File Photo
President-elect Joe Biden announced Tuesday former South Bend, Indiana, mayor Pete Buttigieg (shown) as transportation secretary nominee. UPI File Photo | License Photo

Dec. 15 (UPI) -- President-elect Joe Biden has tapped several people, including former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, to his cabinet who will be integral to implementing his ambitious climate platform.

According to multiple reports, Buttigieg has been tapped to head the Transportation Department, former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm to lead the Energy Department and former Energy Protection Agency head Gina McCarthy to act as his climate coordinator.

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If installed, Buttigieg, 38, who ran against Biden as a Democratic presidential candidate but ended up endorsing Biden, would be the first senate-confirmed LGBTQ cabinet secretary, CNN reported.

Biden had previously shown he wanted to find a spot for the former mayor in his cabinet after they became close during the campaign, and though he could have led the Department of Veteran Affairs as a military veteran, Biden chose the transportation secretary post for him, The New York Times reported.

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If confirmed, Buttigieg will have a significant role in rebuilding U.S. infrastructure and the economy, three people familiar with the decision told The Washington Post.

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The transportation administration will also be part of Biden's efforts to fight climate change by curbing emissions, and Buttigieg had argued as a presidential candidate for tough global warming regulations.

At a March event in Dallas, Biden compared Buttigieg, to his late son Beau, who died of brain cancer in May 2015 at age 46, and similarly served in the military.

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"I don't think I've ever done this before, but he reminds me of my son, Beau," Biden said at the time.

Buttigieg, a U.S. Navy veteran was awarded a Joint Service Commendation Medal after being deployed to Afghanistan, and Beau, who served in the U.S. Army and Delaware Army National Guard, received a Bronze Star Medal after being deployed to Iraq in the 261st Signal Brigade and posthumous Legion of Merit.

Buttigieg, who is married to Chasten Buttigieg, a high school teacher, came out as gay in a 2015 essay for the South Bend Tribune while serving as mayor, and won re-election later that year.

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Buttigieg is a graduate of Harvard College and Oxford University, which he attended on a Rhodes Scholarship.

Prior to becoming mayor, he was a consultant for the Chicago office of McKinsey and Company where he worked on energy, retail, economic development and logistics for three years.

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The former vice president has also tapped Granholm, 61, a former two-term Michigan governor and attorney general, to lead the Energy Department. Politico was the first to report on the appointment with unnamed sources confirming the pick to NPR and CNN.

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Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., tweeted that Granholm "is the right choice" to lead the department under Biden.

"She understands how energy and environmental policies can be used to support working families, and she knows how to craft solutions to the most pressing issues we face today," she said. "This appointment is good news for Michigan and it's good news for our country."

Having served as governor from 2003 to 2011, Granholm helped the Obama administration on the multi-billion-dollar bailout of Detroit's' auto manufacturers and pushed for them to invest in electric vehicles.

She has also been an advocate for clean energy in her state, having last month championed it as a COVID-19 recovery plan in an op-ed published in The Detroit News.

"Low-carbon recovery measures are the best way to ensure a prosperous, long-term recovery that creates good jobs, builds resilience against future shocks and supports the middle class through this unprecedented time," she wrote. "Now, our policymakers must support actions that will usher in this future that the people of Michigan so greatly deserve."

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Lisa Ramsden, the U.S. senior climate campaigner for Greenpeace, welcomed Biden's nomination of Granholm.

"Jennifer Granholm has forcefully spoken out against both the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines and advocated for shifting investment from oil and gas to renewable energy solutions. That's the kind of leadership the Department of Energy has been sorely missing," Ramsden said.

The Republican Party of Michigan condemned the pick, blaming Granholm as she was at the helm during the state's so-called lost decade of economic woes.

"The fact that Joe Biden would pick for his potential cabinet, an individual who was responsible for Michigan's lost decade, which saw jobs and generation of young Michiganders exit our state, is an insult," the state's party chair, Laura Cox, said in a statement, calling her "the worst governor in Michigan's history."

Biden has also picked Gina McCarthy of the Natural Resources Defense Council and former head of the Environmental Protection Agency under the Obama administration to be his White House climate coordinator, The Washington Post, The New York Times and NPR reported citing unnamed sources.

Biden campaigned with a so-called Clean Energy Revolution plan that calls for $5 trillion in private, state and local investments to reach net-zero emissions and 100% clean energy economy by 2050, and as Biden's advisor it will be her job to coordinate domestic climate policies and aid him in implementing this plan, The New York Times reported.

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Garrett Blad, a spokesman for the Sunrise Movement, which has called on Biden to assemble "a power governing team" to combat climate change, said the president-elect's pick of McCarthy was "very encouraging."

McCarthy, 66, "was one of the [Sunrise Movement's] picks to lead a new domestic climate office bc she understands the urgent threat of the climate crisis," Blad tweeted. "The real test, however, of Biden's commitment is if the role has the teeth needed to be effective."

The former EPA head will be working with former Secretary of State John Kerry, who was announced late last month as special presidential envoy on climate during the first batch of the Biden administration's appointments.

Al Gore, the vice president under former President Bill Clinton and a well-known environmentalist, described McCarthy as "uniquely suited for the job" and was a pick that signaled Biden is "serious about America leading by example and driving deep reductions in pollution and climate emissions."

"A new era of climate accountability is upon us," he said in a statement. "The U.S. is back on task."

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Housing and Urban Development Secretary. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki (L) looks on as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Fudge, the first Black woman to lead the department in decades, speaks at a news conference in the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House. Photo by Michael Reynolds/UPI | License Photo

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