Raimondo vows to quickly address economic harm as commerce secretary

Raimondo vows to quickly address economic harm as commerce secretary
Gov. Gina Raimondo testifies remotely Tuesday via videoconference during a Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee hearing on her nomination to be secretary of commerce as Chairman Roger Wicker (L), R-Miss., and Ranking Member Maria Cantwell listen on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. Pool photo by Jonathan Ernst/UPI | License Photo

Jan. 26 (UPI) -- Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo appeared in Congress on Tuesday to begin her confirmation process to become President Joe Biden's commerce secretary.

Raimondo appeared before the Senate commerce science and transportation committee beginning at 10 a.m. EST.


"The Commerce Department has a simple but vital mission -- to spur good-paying jobs, empower entrepreneurs to innovate and grow, and help American workers and businesses compete," Raimondo wrote in prepared remarks. "These same priorities have guided my life and career."

Raimondo added details about how she plans to lead the department as the United States continues to absorb the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

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"First, we need to immediately address the economic damage caused by the pandemic," she wrote. "COVID has touched every community -- urban, suburban, rural, tribal -- and exacerbated long-standing inequities facing low-income families and communities of color.

"Second, we need to ensure that American workers and manufacturers can compete fairly on the global playing field.

"And third, we need to recognize that tackling climate change goes hand-in-hand with creating good paying jobs."

Rhode Island's Democratic governor since 2015, Raimondo is a former venture capitalist who is expected to face direct questioning about how she plans to handle China's growing global influence in commerce, tariffs levied against European allies under the Trump administration and the government's climate change policies.

Raimondo angered some Democratic-supporting unions in Rhode Island when she cut taxes and rolled back regulations to help businesses. The state's Republican Party filed an ethics complaint over her $1 billion contract extension with a gaming company because it didn't go through the competitive bidding process.

Raimondo, however, remains popular in Rhode Island. She was initially elected state treasurer in 2011 before her gubernatorial election in 2014. She was re-elected in 2018 for a second term.

Last year, more than three-quarters of Rhode Islanders said they approved of her handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"I was raised to appreciate the value of hard work and a good, family-supporting job," she adds in her opening statement. "When I was growing up, Rhode Island was the national epicenter of jewelry manufacturing, and those factories sustained thousands of families in my state.

"I know the pain that losing a job causes a family, and I've seen that pain in communities that have lost jobs to outsourcing and to the pandemic."


As her office is term-limited, Raimondo would not have been able to run a third time.

Raimondo was previously a founder and former senior vice president of Village Ventures, a financial outlet support by Bain Capital.

Some progressive Democrats have pushed back on Raimondo's nomination and other moderate Democrats because of their past ties to venture capital and technology firms.

"If confirmed, I look forward to deploying the full resources of the agency to keep the American worker at the center of U.S. trade policy and to reinvigorate American manufacturing by reshoring jobs that have gone oversees," she said in her statement.

"When given a fair chance, no one can outcompete the American worker and small business."

In announcing new Commerce Department appointees on Monday, incoming chief of staff Mike Harney said the department will work for all U.S. citizens.

"President Biden is building a team at the Department of Commerce that will deliver on his promise to build our economy back better," Harney said in a statement. "Together, we will promote equitable economic growth that strengthens U.S. businesses, creates good-paying jobs, invests in solutions to climate change, fosters innovation, and advances racial equity.


"The crises facing our country are urgent, and we are ready to get to work for the American people."

In confirmed by the Senate panel and the full chamber, Raimondo would take over a department run by Wilbur Ross under the Trump administration. Ross, like several of former President Donald Trump's Cabinet leaders, was controversial in his leadership on issues like China tariffs, Huawei and TikTok and was accused of being out of touch with average American consumers.

Other Biden Cabinet nominees who have already been confirmed by the Senate include Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin III.

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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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