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Peters impressed but undecided on Trump transportation pick

Michigan Sen. Gary Peters.
Mark Brush
Michigan Radio
Michigan Sen. Gary Peters.

President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee to be the next transportation secretary faced a U.S. Senate panel. Senator Gary Peters, D-MI, sits on the Senate Transportation Committee and says he likes a lot of what he heard from Secretary-designate Elaine Chao – especially when it comes to the auto industry and next-generation autonomous vehicles, an important issue for the Detroit car makers.

“We’re at a real inflection point here for that technology and the Department of Transportation is a key player in that when it comes to regulations as well as support of some of the testing and innovation that’s going on,” said Peters. “This represents the future of the auto industry and we have to make sure that Michigan is first and foremost when it comes to producing those automobiles.”

Chao, who has served in the cabinets of two Republican presidents, was short on details in her confirmation hearing, and Peters says he’ll be watching to see if her actions match her assurances.

Peters says he’s still not made a final decision on whether to support the nomination. Peters says he also has questions about Chao's plans on fuel pipeline safety – especially Enbridge Line Five that runs beneath the Straits of Mackinac.

One incentive, though, to support Chao might be that she is the spouse of Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and Peters might not want to get on the wrong side of the guy who holds the Senate’s top job.

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.
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