On Tuesday, March 2, the United States Senate confirmed the now former-Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo as President Biden’s secretary of the Commerce Department. The governor was confirmed 84-15. Late Tuesday evening, Lieutenant Governor Dan Mckee was sworn in as the 76th Governor of Rhode Island.
Addressing reporters at the Dunkin Donuts Center, Mckee said, “We are ready to help the people in the state of Rhode Island through this pandemic, but also beyond that, in terms of restoring our economy, and as we’ve said over and over again, get our students back into schools.” He asserted, “We’re certainly ready, the people of Rhode Island should feel comfortable that day one we’ll have people in every department running the departments and also in our office.”
Mckee will serve out the remaining 22 months of Raimondo’s four year term and plans to run for a full four year term in 2022.
Raimondo’s confirmation comes nearly two months after her nomination was announced by President Biden due to Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, placing a hold on Raimondo’s confirmation. At her nomination hearing in early February, Cruz and other Republican Senators claimed that Raimondo was unclear in her response to a question about Huawei (a Chinese telecommunications company). Governor Raimondo will be cutting her second term as Rhode Island’s first female governor short to join the Biden administration.
At her confirmation hearing in January Raimondo said, “In this time of overlapping crises, the Commerce Department must be a partner to businesses and their workers to help them innovate and grow.”
As Secretary of Commerce, Raimondo will lead many agencies including: the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, Minority Business Development Agency and U.S. Census Bureau. In response to Raimondo’s nomination R.I. Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea said, “Governor Gina Raimondo has been a trailblazing leader throughout her life. In choosing her as his nominee for Commerce Secretary, President Biden is recognizing her experience and dedication to enhancing commerce. Governor Raimondo will serve our nation well in this role.”
R.I. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse said that although she is leaving her governorship early Raimondo will continue to help Rhode Islanders. He said, “As she takes on a major role in overseeing the national economic recovery and making American businesses more competitive in the global marketplace.” Whitehouse continued, “I look forward to working with Secretary Raimondo on prioritizing the stewardship of our oceans at NOAA and continuing to make job-creating investments in Rhode Island through the Economic Development Administration.”
Congressman David Cicilline also expressed his support for Raimondo, stating, “Nearly six years to the day after she took the oath of office on the steps of our State House, Governor Gina Raimondo prepares to leave Rhode Island in much better shape than she found it.” He said, “Few governors have been as consequential for our state. None have matched her effectiveness, or the calm, steady hand with which she has guided us through this pandemic.”