PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The U.S. Senate has agreed to move ahead to a final confirmation vote on Gov. Gina Raimondo’s nomination for commerce secretary, all but ensuring she will win approval on Tuesday to join President Biden’s cabinet.
An overwhelming majority of senators voted to invoke “cloture” — that is, end unlimited debate and schedule a final vote — on Raimondo’s nomination during a floor session early Monday evening. The final vote was 84-15, with most Republicans joining Senate Democrats to allow the final vote.
Senate leaders have scheduled Raimondo’s confirmation vote for 2:15 p.m. on Tuesday.
Democratic U.S. Sen. Jack Reed said he expects Raimondo to win final approval by a similarly lopsided margin to the tally on Monday.
“It just shows the bipartisan support she’s receiving,” Reed told 12 News, noting that there have been close votes on some other nominees. “I think they’re terribly impressed with Governor Raimondo,” he added.
Referring to last month’s impeachment trial and one-week recess, Reed said, “This was not heavy lifting — the hardest part was getting it scheduled because of all the other events.”
Once the Senate votes to confirm Raimondo, a formal document about her appointment will be sent to President Biden for his signature. Once Biden signs it, she can be sworn in as commerce secretary.
“I would assume they’ll move, with the cooperation of the White House, to a swearing-in shortly thereafter — not tomorrow I don’t think, but in the days following,” Reed said.
Raimondo’s office has not yet commented on the mechanics of her departure from Rhode Island, but she is expected to send a letter to Lt. Gov. Dan McKee tendering her resignation sometime between the confirmation vote and her swearing-in.
At that point McKee, a second-term Democrat, will be administered the oath of office by Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea in the State Room of the State House, a spokesperson said. McKee will serve out the remaining 22 months of Raimondo’s current term, and is planning to run for a full four-year term as governor in his own right in the 2022 election.
McKee is looking to hold a formal inauguration ceremony at the State House on Sunday.
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Biden nominated Raimondo, 49, in January to lead the U.S. Commerce Department. She is the first Rhode Island politician plucked for the president’s cabinet since Harry Truman named then-U.S. Sen. J. Howard McGrath as his attorney general in 1949.
As commerce secretary, Raimondo will oversee a federal department with an $8.9 billion annual budget and roughly 47,000 employees. It oversees agencies such as the National Weather Service and the Census Bureau.
Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy’s office recently described the department’s overall duties as being “to warn Americans about severe weather, promote American businesses and exports, create cybersecurity standards, protect American ideas, foster economic development, enable sustainable management of ocean resources, and complete the 2020 Census.”
The Biden administration announced last week that three of Raimondo’s most trusted State House advisers during her time as governor — policy director Nell Abernathy, former director of the governor’s office Matt Bucci, and senior deputy chief of staff Kevin Gallagher — will be joining her in senior roles at the Commerce Department.
Abernathy will be deputy director of the Office of Policy and Strategic Planning, Bucci will be counselor to the secretary, and Gallagher will be a senior adviser for upskilling and broadband. Abernathy and Gallagher left the governor’s office just last month.
Ted Nesi (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a Target 12 investigative reporter and 12 News politics/business editor. He co-hosts Newsmakers and writes Nesi’s Notes on Saturdays. Connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram
Eli Sherman contributed to this report.