Gina Raimondo confirmed as US Commerce Department secretary

By an 84-15 vote on the afternoon of Tuesday, 2 March, the U.S. Senate voted to confirm Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo as the next U.S. secretary of Commerce. In that position, Raimondo will be the top official in the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden to oversee the federal government’s policies concerning the fishing industry.

Raimondo was nominated for the position on 7 January and testified before the Senate on 27 January. She was sworn into her new position in the evening of Wednesday, 3 March.

In a letter of resignation as governor, Raimondo said it was an “honor” to be called on by Biden to serve in his administration. In her new role, Raimondo will have authority over NOAA Fisheries, the agency that oversees fisheries management and other agencies that make decisions regarding the use of federal waters. That includes the development of offshore wind farms, and the management of marine sanctuaries.

Raimondo received unanimous support from the 50-member Democratic caucus in the chamber and got a strong majority of the 50 Republican caucus as well. Her proponents said, as the former leader of a coastal state, Raimondo is well-positioned to understand the needs of the fishing industry.

“Sustainable fisheries are important economic drivers in coastal communities,” U.S. Senate Commerce Committee Chair Maria Cantwell said in a statement. “I know that Gov. Raimondo gets that. She understands that commercial fishermen, and the impacts that they have, will impact not just seafood processors, shipbuilding, trade, but also our restaurant economy.”

Cantwell said she believes Raimondo will help increase the role scientific data and analysis plays in the executive branch’s decision-making and strategic planning.

“I know that she understands that as secretary she can use those good scientific agencies within the Department of Commerce to better understand the impacts of climate and the impacts of COVID and what we can do,” Cantwell said. “We know, in the state of Washington, that just a little bit of science done at the University of Washington helped us immensely in saving our shellfish industry.”

National Fisheries Institute President John Connelly previously called Raimondo an innovator capable of balancing the needs of conservation and commerce.

“We are encouraged that President-elect Biden has chosen a policymaker from a coastal state, who knows the importance of harvesting and the full seafood supply chain, for this leadership position,” Connelly said in a statement prior to Biden’s inauguration.

Raimondo replaces Wilbur Ross, who served as U.S. President Donald Trump’s Commerce secretary from February 2017 until Biden was sworn in as president in January. Ross played a leading role in Trump’s “Blue Economy” initiatives, which included working on ways to reduce the country’s seafood trade deficit.

Photo courtesy of Anthony Ricci/Shutterstock


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