Ross to be Confirmed as Commerce Head 02/27 05:43
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Billionaire investor Wilbur Ross is headed toward
confirmation as Commerce secretary in President Donald Trump's administration.
The Senate is set to vote on Ross' nomination Monday evening. Ross easily
cleared the Senate Commerce Committee and a procedural vote by the full Senate.
Ross' confirmation has gone much smoother than other Trump nominees'
approval. Former Commerce secretaries have praised him, including one who
served under former President Barack Obama.
Senators from both political parties were deferential to Ross at his nearly
four-hour confirmation hearing, which was much more subdued than the
confirmation hearings of other Trump nominees.
"I believe his extensive management experience in the private sector, and
his understanding of the challenges faced by workers and businesses alike, will
equip him well for the job of leading the Department of Commerce," said Sen.
John Thune, R-S.D., chairman of the Commerce Committee.
Breaking with Republican orthodoxy, Ross said the Trump administration will
work quickly to re-do the North American Free Trade Agreement, a massive trade
pact with Canada and Mexico that has boosted trade but still stings laid-off
workers across the Midwest.
Ross said all free trade agreements should be systematically re-opened every
few years to make sure they are working in the best interests of the U.S.
Ross said he is pro-free trade but noted his close relationship with the
United Steelworkers union as proof that he will fight to protect American jobs.
The union has endorsed him.
NAFTA was negotiated and signed by President Bill Clinton, with broad
support among Republicans in Congress.
Worth an estimated $2.9 billion, Ross has extensive business ties around the
globe. In 2000, he founded WL Ross & Co., a private equity firm. As part of his
ethics agreement, Ross will divest from the firm, if confirmed.
The commerce secretary has several roles in promoting American business
interests in the U.S. and abroad. The department handles trade issues, working
to attract foreign investment to the U.S. The department also oversees agencies
that manage fisheries, weather forecasting and the Census Bureau, which will
conduct a count in 2020.
Ross said he has experience at that agency; he was a census-taker while he
attended business school.