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Senate confirms Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo as commerce secretary

Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo was confirmed Tuesday as commerce secretary. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI
Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo was confirmed Tuesday as commerce secretary. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

March 2 (UPI) -- The Senate on Thursday confirmed Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo to serve as U.S. commerce secretary.

Raimondo was confirmed in an 84-15 bipartisan vote Tuesday despite Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, urging his colleagues to vote against her on the Senate floor earlier in the day.

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Cruz has objected to her not committing to keeping Chinese telecom giant Huawei on the "entity list," effectively blacklisting it.

In February, Cruz placed a hold on the Senate voting on Raimondo's nomination over concerns she had not clarified her stance on Huawei.

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"I'll lift the hold when the Biden admin commits to keep the massive Chinese Communist Party spy operation on the Entity List," Cruz tweeted at the time.

Raimondo had committed to consult with lawmakers, allies and industry experts, but not to keeping the company on the list at her confirmation hearing.

Her new role will put her in charge of a department with duties including forecasting the weather, fighting climate change, managing ocean fisheries, and steel and aluminum duties on global trade partners.

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Raimondo said in her confirmation hearing she would address three main areas. First, economic damage from COVID-19, which has "exacerbated long-standing inequalities facing low-income families and communities of color." Second, ensuring fair competition for U.S. workers "on the global playing field." Third, tackling climate change, which she said plays a role in "creating good-paying jobs."

Raimondo will come to the post after serving six years as Rhode Island's first female governor.

As governor, some local Democratic-supporting unions criticized her rolling back of business regulations, and the state's Republican Party filed an ethics complaint against her over a $1 billion contract extension with a gaming company because it didn't go through competitive bidding process. Still, she remained popular, with most residents approving her handling of the pandemic. Prior to serving as governor, Raimondo served as the state's treasurer and a venture capitalist backed by Bain Capital.

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President Joe Biden announced his intent to nominate her for the position in January.

Former President Donald Trump's administration placed Huawei on the "entity list" in May 2019, which required U.S. firms to have a license to sell products to the company, with U.S. officials saying the company posed a risk to national security. Huawai has denied it poses such a threat. A year later the Commerce Department implemented plans to further hamper Huawei's business by blocking the company from obtaining foreign-made semiconductors. The Department said the company was undermining the "entity list" by importing non-U.S. made items, such as semiconductors, that use U.S. software technology.

Earlier this year, industry analysts said U.S. sanctions have crippled Huawei's sales, with it recently tumbling four spots to become the sixth-best celling cellphone vendor in the world.

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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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