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Senate confirms Pete Buttigieg as Transportation secretary

Pete Buttigieg speaks at the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation nomination hearings to examine his expected nomination to be Secretary of Transportation in Washington.

Ken Cedeno | Reuters

The U.S. Senate on Tuesday confirmed Pete Buttigieg as Transportation secretary, handing the former presidential candidate a wide array of challenges — from President Joe Biden‘s environmental priorities to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, last week easily won approval from the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, following a largely friendly hearing. He was quizzed on issues related to Covid-19, much-needed infrastructure improvement and strengthening the powers of the Federal Aviation Administration if he took the reins of the 55,000-person DOT.

In its first two weeks, the Biden administration has already taken a hard line on transportation measures that aim to curb the spread of Covid-19. Biden extended an entry ban on most non-U.S. citizens who have recently been in Brazil, the U.K. and much of Europe. On Tuesday, the U.S. government started requiring passengers to wear masks on airplanes, trains, buses, ferries and other forms of transportation.

Buttigieg’s DOT could become a driving or limiting force in the adoption of emerging technologies, specifically autonomous and electric vehicles.

Biden has already directed federal agencies to consider revising vehicle-fuel emissions standards that were cut by the Trump administration. He also said he plans to replace the government’s fleet of cars and trucks with electric vehicles assembled in the U.S.

The 39-year-old will be the first openly gay person to be confirmed to hold a Cabinet position and one of the youngest ever.

CNBC’s Michael Wayland contributed to this article.