Politics

Pete Buttigieg becomes America’s first out Cabinet member

FEB 19, 2020, LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - USA -Chris Matthews of MSNBC interviews Democratic Presidential Candidate Mayor Pete Buttigieg Presidential Debate
Mayor Pete Buttigieg being interviewed during the Presidential Debate in Las Vegas, Nevada on February 19, 2020. Photo: Joseph Sohm / Shutterstock

Pete Buttigieg has become the first out LGBTQ person to be nominated for a Cabinet position and confirmed by the Senate.

Buttigieg was confirmed as the Secretary of Transportation by a bipartisan vote.

Related: Pete Buttigieg asked Hillary Clinton for advice about being a Cabinet member

Buttigieg was confirmed as the Secretary of Transportation by a bipartisan vote of 86 to 13.

With this appointment and confirmation, Buttigieg caps off a historic, meteoric-like political rise.

He went from being the mayor of the small town of South Bend, Indiana at the end of 2019 to become the first out Democratic presidential candidate that spring, followed by becoming the first to ever win a major party’s state primary or delegates in January 2020, momentarily making him one of the top contenders before he dropped out in March. Instead, he became one of the top surrogates for Joe Biden’s eventually successful campaign.

“Part of what’s going to matter is for us to not only to win back the White House but other offices,” Buttigieg told LGBTQ Nation right before the election ended. “It sends a message to the GOP in the only language they understand, the language of power.”

Secretary Buttigieg is the first confirmed out Cabinet member in the history of the United States. He’s one of the highest-ranking out political officials in American history.

“The Indiana Democratic Party is proud of Secretary Buttigieg for all the work he’s accomplished for Hoosiers and the achievements he’ll make while leading the Department of Transportation under the Biden-Harris Administration,” spokesperson Drew Anderson said. “Buttigieg is a true example of what it means to have all voices — including LGBTQ Americans — at the table, and he’ll be an inspiration for so many who until this moment may have believed certain dreams were not possible.”

“For the first time ever, an openly LGBTQ person has been confirmed by the U.S. Senate to hold a Cabinet-level position. This is big news,” Erin Uritus, CEO of Out & Equal Workplace Advocates, said. “Today it is even easier for LGBTQ Americans to see ourselves in national leadership.”

“Pete shattered a centuries-old political barrier with overwhelming bipartisan support and that paves the way for more LGBTQ Americans to pursue high-profile appointments,” Mayor Annise Parker, President & CEO of LGBTQ Victory Institute, said. “Pete testifying at his confirmation hearing, with his husband looking on, will be among the powerful images that define this unprecedented political moment and will be remembered as a milestone in America’s move toward social justice.”

When Biden first introduced Buttigieg as his nominee for the position, he stated that “I got to know Pete on the campaign trail. He is one of the smartest people you’ll ever meet and one of the most humble.

“A mayor from the heartland, a management expert, a policy wonk with a big heart, a veteran, a lieutenant in the United States Navy Reserve, an intelligence officer deployed to Afghanistan while he was mayor. A new voice with new ideas, determined to move past old politics,” Biden said of Buttigieg.

President Biden is famously fond of the former mayor, saying last year on the campaign trail that “I don’t think I’ve ever done this before, but he reminds me of my son Beau…. It’s the highest compliment I could give any man or woman.” Beau Biden passed away due to brain cancer in 2015.

In his opening statement for his confirmation hearings, Buttigieg took the historic moment to thank his husband.

“I’d like to take a moment to introduce my husband Chasten Buttigieg, who is here with me today,” Pete said. “I’m really proud to have him by my side. I also want to take this chance to thank him for his many sacrifices and his support in making it possible for me to pursue public service.”

Outside of now Vice President Kamala Harris, Secretary Buttigieg is the only former 2020 presidential candidate to earn a spot in the Biden Cabinet so far.

The president’s Cabinet is made up of the heads of all the executive branch departments plus the Vice President. Other high-level government officials like CIA director, White House Chief of Staff, and the Environmental Protection Agency administrator, are considered Cabinet-level.

Buttigieg’s predecessor, Elaine Chao – whose husband is Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) – announced her resignation on January 7, saying she was “deeply troubled” by the “entirely avoidable” riots that had took place at the Capitol the day before.

Log Cabin Republicans contend that Ric Grenell was the first out Cabinet official, because Donald Trump named him the acting Director of National Intelligence, a Cabinet-level position, in February to replace the previous acting Director, who acknowledged that Russia was trying to interfere with the 2020 election.

The “acting” director designation is not subject to Senate confirmation, so Grenell was not confirmed to the Cabinet and only held the title while Trump’s actual nominee, John Ratcliffe, was confirmed in May. Grenell never left his post as the Ambassador to Germany while holding the designation.