Commerce Secretary nominee Governor Gina Raimondo testifies in Senate confirmation hearing

Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo, nominated by President Biden to be commerce secretary, is appearing before the Senate Commerce Committee Tuesday, where she will be laying out her priorities if confirmed to lead the department. She’ll discuss the Commerce Department’s role in tackling the economic crisis, reinvesting in American workers, how she would focus on trade policy and manufacturing, as well as how tackling the threat of climate change can be coupled with the creation of good-paying jobs. 

“Like President Biden, I know the climate crisis poses an existential threat to our economic security, and we must meet this challenge by creating millions of good, union jobs that power a more sustainable economy,” Raimondo said in her prepared remarks. “The Commerce Department has the tools, data, and expertise to help communities and businesses address the climate crisis and become more resilient in the face of climate change.”

As the governor of Rhode Island, Raimondo will also be touting her administration’s expansion of clean energy jobs — she oversaw the construction of the country’s first offshore wind farm. If confirmed, Raimondo would lead the agency that houses the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, a division of the Commerce Department tasked with monitoring the climate and weather.  

Raimondo is also calling for a Biden trade policy centered around American workers and bringing back jobs to the U.S. that have gone overseas. 

“We need to ensure that American workers and manufacturers can compete fairly on the global playing field,” she will tell the committee. “We need to invest in innovation and technology in our manufacturing sector and take aggressive trade enforcement actions to combat unfair trade practices from China and other nations that undercut American manufacturing.”

Her confirmation hearing comes as the U.S. struggles to control COVID-19 and an economic crisis that has forced millions out of work. While Raimondo is focused on American manufacturing and climate change, she will say the country must first “immediately address the economic damage” caused by the coronavirus pandemic. 

“We need to make investments across America and ensure every family, regardless of where they live, has an accessible pathway to a good job,” Raimondo will say. “If confirmed as commerce secretary, I look forward to scaling and deploying additional resources to businesses and workers — with a focus on regions and communities that have often been left behind — to help them bounce back and grow stronger than ever.”

She has been aggressive about addressing the coronavirus pandemic in her state. According to Johns Hopkins data, Rhode Island has conducted the most COVID-19 tests per capita of any state in the country. 

Raimondo was first elected governor in 2014, at a time when the state had one of the highest unemployment rates in the country, exceeding 11%. Before the pandemic, unemployment had fallen to a 30-year low of 3.4%. 

“We did it by investing in our people through workforce training programs, bringing dozens of new businesses to the state, and empowering small business owners,” Raimondo will say of her past experience.

Before she was elected governor, Raimondo was also elected to be the state’s treasurer in 2010. She is a graduate of Harvard, Yale Law School, and was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University.

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