Senate confirms billionaire investor Wilbur Ross as commerce secretary

Mar 01, 2017, 00:15
Senate confirms billionaire investor Wilbur Ross as commerce secretary

Ross was criticized by some Democrats as another billionaire in a Trump Cabinet that says it is focused on the working class, and for being a "vulture" investor who has eliminated some jobs.

Senators from both political parties were deferential to Ross at his almost four-hour confirmation hearing, which was much more subdued than the confirmation hearings of other Trump nominees.

So far, the Senate has confirmed 15 out of 22 Trump Cabinet or Cabinet-level picks requiring confirmation.

Vice President Mike Pence administered the oath of office to Ross, 79, a day after the U.S. Senate voted to confirm the corporate turnaround expert's nomination, with strong support from Democrats.

President Donald Trump, who once denounced the "FDA Food Police" and vowed to gut food safety protections as a way of stopping "inspection overkill", apparently is absolutely fine with inspecting food that comes from a foreign country.

Ross is expected to be a powerful figure in the Trump administration, leading the way on efforts to renegotiate NAFTA, the controversial trade agreement with Canada and Mexico.

As head of a vehicle parts company, he reportedly outsourced around 2,700 jobs from the United States to Mexico - taking advantage of some of the Nafta legislation he will now be required to roll back.

"I am not anti-trade, I am pro-trade, but I am pro-sensible trade, not pro-trade that is to the disadvantage of the American worker in the American manufacturing community", Ross said in his confirmation hearing on January 18.

He also said International Textile Group "would have had to shut down far more domestic activities" if it hadn't moved some operations overseas. He's slated to be officially sworn in on Tuesday at the White House. He'll also oversee agencies that manage fisheries, weather forecasting and the Census Bureau, which will conduct the next national head count in 2020.

"If you add and subtract, we were a very large net creator of jobs" in the U.S., Ross said.

While Ross will step down from the private equity firm he founded in 1997, he plans to remain a passive investor in nine investment vehicles related to shipping, mortgage lending and real estate financing.

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