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US Senate committee backs Raimondo for commerce secretary

The committee voted 21-3 to advance the Rhode Island governor’s nomination to the full Senate

Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo delivered remarks after President-elect Joe Biden announced her as his commerce secretary nominee a last month.Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

PROVIDENCE — Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo is one step away from Washington, D.C.

The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation voted 21-3 Wednesday to advance to the full Senate Raimondo’s nomination to be President Biden’s secretary of commerce. The hearing lasted just 15 minutes, and the overwhelming support is a sign that she is likely to be confirmed.

“I think it’s very important that we have someone at the department of commerce who is from the private sector, and we’re blessed with Governor Raimondo’s being both in the public sector and the private sector,” Senator Maria Cantwell of Washington said prior to the vote.


Republican Senators Ted Cruz of Texas, Rick Scott of Florida, and Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee voted against Raimondo.

Cantwell said she believes Raimondo’s experience will give her a “great deal of insights to the many challenges facing our economy, the competitiveness of businesses, the challenges of the information age, and what we need to know to help skill a workforce to be able to take advantages of that economy of the future.”

Raimondo met with the committee for nearly three hours last week, and was peppered with questions on topics that ranged from broadband access and the hospitality industry to fisheries and competition with China.

Cantwell, the ranking Democrat on the committee who is expected to soon be named chairwoman, highlighted Raimondo’s “Real Jobs Rhode Island” program, which seeks to link employers with workers who are then trained for needed jobs, as one of the governor’s top accomplishments. The program is run by the state Department of Labor and Training under director Scott Jensen.

“We all know that we need to marry up our future businesses with the skilled workers that they’re looking for,” Cantwell said. “This program, the Real Jobs Rhode Island initiative, served more than 1,700 employers and 11,000 people throughout the state.”


Raimondo faced criticism from Cruz and other Republicans for failing to specifically commit to continuing former president Donald Trump’s export ban for Huawei Technologies. In written responses to questions from the committee, Raimondo said she is fully supportive of the restrictions against Huawei.

It’s unclear when the Senate will consider Raimondo’s nomination, and the timing will determine the pace of the transition in Rhode Island. Raimondo is required to resign as governor when she is confirmed, and Lieutenant Governor Dan McKee will become governor for the final two years of Raimondo’s term.

Raimondo bid farewell to her state Wednesday, using her final State of the State address to praise its citizens’ resilience and sacrifice during the pandemic as she awaits confirmation as US secretary of commerce.

Speaking from a largely empty legislative chamber, Raimondo also highlighted her successes since winning the governor’s office in 2014 and vowed a seamless transition to McKeewhen it comes to fighting the virus.

“Many years from now, we will look back at this year and everything we overcame together,” said the Democrat, whose speech was broadcast on television and online.

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.

Dan McGowan can be reached at dan.mcgowan@globe.com. Follow him @danmcgowan.