Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao is resigning, effective Monday, Jan. 11, the first member of President Donald Trump’s cabinet to leave in the wake of the Jan. 6 mob of his supporters breaching the U.S. Capitol.
In a letter to her DOT colleagues she posted in Twitter, she wrote:
“Yesterday, our country experienced a traumatic and entirely avoidable event as supporters of the President stormed the capitol building following a rally he addressed. As I’m sure is the case with many of you, it has deeply troubled me in a way that I simply cannot set aside.
“I am tremendously proud of the many accomplishments we were able to achieve together for our country and I will never forget the commitment you have for this department and the United States of America….
“We will help my announced successor Mayor Pete Buttigieg, with taking on the responsibility of running this wonderful department.”
Chao came into her post with a focus on the nation's crumbling infrastructure, backed by years of government experience, having served in both Bush administrations.
Chao was the first Asian-American woman and the first Taiwanese American in history to be appointed to a Cabinet post. She is married to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).
At the time, American Trucking Associations President and CEO Chris Spear was quick to praise Trump’s selection to head the DOT.
During her confirmation hearings, Chao unequivocally signaled her willingness to cooperate with Congress to enact the trillion-dollar infrastructure investment plan floated by President-elect Trump, and advocated strongly for “unleashing the potential for private investment in our nation’s infrastructure.”
However, Trump’s plans for a giant infrastructure package did not come to fruition, although he had campaigned on spending $1 trillion on infrastructure – nearly four times as much as his opponent, Hillary Clinton.
Once president, Trump spoke a lot about his desire to pass an infrastructure bill, but never was able to develop specific plans that gained any traction in Congress.
ATA's Spear issued a statement on the news of the resignation: “Secretary Chao has been a strong leader and a tremendous partner on a host of issues impacting the trucking industry. She came into the role as one of the most experienced cabinet secretaries in our nation’s history, and has proven to be a leader who embodies integrity, courage and conviction.
“From the Department’s efforts to improve safety while providing flexibility for commercial drivers, drawing a roadmap for future transportation leaders to follow on automated vehicles, and recognizing the unique role drivers play in our industry, she should be commended for her vision." He praised her leadership throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
"On a personal note, having worked for and with her over many years, I can attest that Elaine is a person of strong moral character, and should be applauded for not standing idly by following yesterday’s abhorrent and shameful events at the Capitol."
He also said the association looks forward to working with President-elect Biden’s Transportation Secretary nominee Pete Buttigieg.
Updated 7:15 p.m. 1/7/2021 to add comments from ATA.