The Honorable Elaine L. Chao was sworn in as the 18th Secretary of Transportation, following a Senate confirmation hearing and vote to approve her appointment.  Chao’s confirmation encountered little resistance, passing by a 93:6 vote with one abstention by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), her husband.(1)

Those opposing the confirmation were Senators Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), as well as Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.). 

The Hon. Elaine Chao (2nd from right) is sworn in by Vice President Mike Pence, as Chao’s father James Chao and husband Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell look on. (Photo: US Department of Transportation,)

Chao previously served as the 24th U. S. Secretary of Labor from 2001-2009, and in that position was the first Asian American woman in U.S. history to be appointed to a Cabinet position.  Prior to the Department of Labor, Secretary Chao was President and Chief Executive Officer of United Way of America, where she restored public trust and confidence in one of America’s premier institutions of private charitable giving after it had been tarnished by financial mismanagement and abuse, according to a Transportation Department announcement. 

She also served of the Peace Corps, she established the first programs in the Baltic nations and the newly independent states of the former Soviet Union. Her government service also includes positions as Deputy Secretary of Transportation; Chairman of the Federal Maritime Commission; Deputy Maritime Administrator at the Transportation Department; and White House Fellow specializing in transportation and trade in the Office of Policy Development.  She has also worked in the private sector as Vice President of Syndications at Bank of America and as a  transportation banker at Citicorp, according to the announcement.  

Chao emigrated from Taiwan, arriving in the United States at the age of eight. She received her citizenship at the age of 19.  Chao earned an economics degree from Mount Holyoke College and her Masters in Business Administration from Harvard University’s Business School.   She also holds 36 honorary doctorate degrees, according to the Transportation Department announcement. 

(1) Source:   U.S. Senate’s roll call vote on the Nomination (Confirmation) of Elaine L. Chao, of Kentucky, to be Secretary of Transportation