PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse on Monday told 12 News it could take months following President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration for Gov. Gina Raimondo to be confirmed as the new secretary of commerce.
“Commerce, important though it is, is not as urgent as attorney general, secretary of defense, secretary of the treasury, and so forth,” Whitehouse said. “So, she’s not going to be at the top of the list to get through. With all of that said, and with things likely to go smoothly, I’d say March to April is a very safe bet.”
Whitehouse said he thinks Raimondo’s confirmation process is “likely to go smoothly” as she seeks the approval of his Senate colleagues.
So what will Raimondo be responsible for if and when she’s confirmed as the nation’s next commerce secretary? Basically, everything that’s related to the nation’s economy will fall under her purview.
Former Brown University Professor Darrell West, who now works at the Brookings Institution in Washington, said the new gig is likely to come with a lot of travel, potentially to Europe and Asia.
“Her job is to help companies find jobs, develop trade relations with other countries and to really promote economic development across the board,” West explained.
While the job is likely to take Raimondo to international destinations, the journey from her office in Washington to the White House will be a short one.
“It is a large building that fills an entire city block,” West said. “It’s only a couple blocks away from the White House, so it’s very centrally located.”
In addition to bolstering the economy, the U.S. Department of Commerce is responsible for the oversight of agencies like the U.S. Census Bureau, which missed its Dec. 31 deadline to provide the latest population count from the 2020 Census.
This would be something that would fall into Raimondo’s hands if she is sworn in.
But prior to her confirmation, West said the governor can’t turn a blind eye to Rhode Island, especially amid the coronavirus pandemic. He said she’s likely taking the time behind the scenes now to compile the paperwork necessary for her confirmation hearing.
“In order to get confirmed by the Senate you have to submit tax returns and financial disclosure forms,” West explained. “There’s just a lot of detail. Basically they go through your entire record. The committees ask a lot of questions, there’s a long questionnaire that has to be be filled out, so I’m sure she’s spending a lot of time now just dealing with the mechanics of the confirmation process.”
Ted Nesi contributed to this report.