On Monday, the Senate held the confirmation hearing for Wilbur Ross, President Trump’s pick for Secretary of Commerce. During the four-hour-long hearing, representatives from both parties kept the hype to a minimum, which set a new tone in contrast to the hearings of other Trump cabinet picks such as Betsy DeVos, Secretary of Education, and Rex Tillerson, Head of the State Department.
Ross was approved with a 72-27 vote, and was also praised by members of both parties. Former Chairman of the Commerce Committee who worked under President Obama, Senator John Thune (R-S.D.) said of Ross, “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.”
His vote did not come without some push back from Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass), who seems to be among the most outspoken on the committee. The Senator spoke out against Ross’s past business ties with Russia as well as his business practices during the housing crisis. Warren stated during the hearing, “Mr. Ross has extensive ties to Russia. He plans to keep making money from his major oil shipping companies while working as Commerce Secretary. He’s made billions off the backs of struggling homeowners. He is practically a cartoon stereotype of a Wall Street fat cat.” Senator Warren obviously didn’t get the memo that Hillary-style jokes don’t get you anywhere.
Out of the 72 ‘aye’ votes Ross received, 20 of them were Democrat and one was Independent. He is the 14th member of Trump’s cabinet to be confirmed, and with Ross’s confirmation, all of the most important members of Trump’s economic team are in place.
Secretary Ross, the 79-year-old investor who is worth an estimated $2.9 billion, is known for buying out companies on the verge of bankruptcy, restructuring them and making them profitable, and then selling them for a major profit. He has worked in industries such as steel, textiles, coal, foreign investment, and telecommunications – some of which President Trump has been adamant about creating more jobs for. His practices have earned him the nickname ‘Bankruptcy King’ by other business owners.
President Trump has also worked with Ross in the past. In the 1980s, when Trump’s Atlantic City casino properties were knocking on the door of foreclosure from lenders, it was Wilbur Ross who represented Trump’s investors and worked a deal to keep the casinos in working order.
During his confirmation hearing, Ross was not asked about his business ventures with Russia nor his practices during the housing crisis. He did, however, speak on the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and his views on trade agreements as a whole.
Speaking in a different tone than most Republicans, Ross said the Trump administration will work to renegotiate NAFTA with Canada and Mexico while also taking the massive lay-offs in the Midwest into consideration. As an investor, Mr. Ross took advantage of many aspects of NAFTA by making certain deals with Canadian and Mexican companies, moving jobs to Mexico when he was working with the automotive industry, and more. These, however, are some of the aspects of NAFTA that Ross is open to renegotiate.
When addressing trade more broadly, Ross said that trade agreements must be re-opened every few years to make sure they are still working with U.S. interests in mind.
The newly appointed secretary is also a supporter of free trade, but insists he will fight for jobs in America as he referred to his ties to the United Steelworkers union. “I am pro-trade, but I am pro-sensible trade,” Mr. Ross declared at his confirmation hearing.
The Department of Commerce plays a vital role in the operations of the United States government. The department oversees the Census Bureau, weather forecasting, and trade issues. The department is also working to attract foreign investments to the United States, rather than the opposite.
By nominating Wilbur Ross as Secretary of Commerce, President Trump is putting another businessman at the table to help ‘drain the swamp’. By bringing his business expertise to the political stage, Ross is giving business a voice in Washington. He will work to disrupt the pool of career politicians who no longer fight for the good of the American people, but rather the lobbyists who pay them off to endorse their careers. With Ross’s help, President Trump will also be able to implement his ‘America First’ policy on a wider scale. There will be no more decisions made that don’t have the best intentions for our nation and its citizens.
Ross has also divested from many of his business deals while awaiting confirmation. He feels it was necessary for him to be able to focus on the reconstruction of America’s trade deals, and in divesting he finds himself in a better position to do just that.
As a former Democrat, Wilbur Ross is able to relate to both parties, which played a crucial role in his mass approval from each side. Ross did not register as a Republican until November 2016, but he was an early supporter of Trump in last year’s election. Dating as far back as 2011, Ross has also donated to Republican politicians and their causes.
Secretary Ross will join other members of President Trump’s cabinet as a vital partner to execute their economic agenda. He joins the cabinet just in time to begin legislation on taxes, budgets, and healthcare reform.
On Monday, the Senate also voted 67-31 to move forward with the nomination of Representative Ryan Zinke (R-Mont.) to lead the Interior Department. His final vote is expected Wednesday.
It seems Democrats in Congress are finally starting to realize that the quicker they vote to confirm Trump’s cabinet nominees, the quicker the government can get to more important issues like healthcare, education, and trade.