President-elect Joe Biden will nominate Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo, a former venture capitalized educated as an economist, to serve as his secretary of the Commerce Department, according to the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.
Raimondo, the first woman to become governor of her state, had been considered as a running mate for Biden before his selection of Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.
Raimondo has touted economic growth the state enjoyed before the pandemic. But her potential appointment had been opposed by progressive advocates who were critical of her policies, including her overhaul of the state pension system.
When Raimondo campaigned for reelection in 2018, she faced union opposition and a progressive challenger, who was supported by groups aligned with Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. The advocacy group Demand Progress opposed Raimondo’s appointment to any Cabinet post, citing problems with state health insurance programs.
The Commerce Department handles a variety of functions. One of the most prominent now is the census, which happens every 10 years to reapportion House seats in Congress by population, and carries implications for how federal money is distributed. The 2020 census has been mired in controversy for years because of disputes about who should be counted. The Trump administration sought to not count undocumented immigrants, but Democrats said the Constitution calls for everyone to be counted.
The department, as its name implies, also helps negotiate trade agreements. And the department includes functions such as the National Weather Service and the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, which deals with fisheries.
Raimondo became the first woman governor of Rhode Island in 2015. During her administration, the state invested in infrastructure, education and job training. The state became the fourth in the country to offer tuition-free community college to every high school graduate, a national goal for Biden as president.
Raimondo, a former venture-capital executive who co-founded Point Judith Capital, won statewide election as general treasurer in 2010. She overhauled the state pension system, which had a $7 billion unfunded liability. Provisions included eliminating cost-of-living increases, raising the retirement age and moving workers into different retirement accounts, which sparked union opposition.
Raimondo, whose grandfather immigrated from Italy, grew up in Smithfield. She graduated with honors in economics from Harvard University, won a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford University, where she earned a doctorate, and graduated from Yale Law School.
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