Ahead of Final Confirmation Vote, Cantwell Urges Colleagues to Confirm Raimondo to Lead Commerce Department

Nominee will be critical to supporting Washington coastal, trade economies - Cantwell invited Raimondo to visit the state

WASHINGTON, D.C. – As the Senate prepares to vote on the final confirmation of Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo to lead the U.S. Department of Commerce, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), the Chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, highlighted Raimondo’s important public and private sector experience and urged senators to support her confirmation.

“For me, Governor Raimondo’s private sector experience really means a lot. She knows how to invest in new technologies and things that are going to help us grow jobs for the future, and she knows how to match up a workforce with those job opportunities,” Cantwell said. “As governor, she invested in workforce training and matching workers with relevant small business experience, called her Rhode Island Job Initiative. The program served over more than 1,700 employers and 11,000 people throughout the state. She was able to send her state's unemployment rates tumbling to a 30-year low.”

Cantwell also spoke about Raimondo’s experience as Governor of Rhode Island and how it will prepare her to help address the impacts of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic:

“Make no mistake, the Department of Commerce is going to have a very challenging role as we try to deal with the impacts of COVID-19,” Cantwell said. “One of the most important responsibilities, I believe, will be dealing with the sectors most hard hit by the COVID pandemic. I'm glad that Governor Raimondo is a governor of a coastal state, because one of the most impacted industries we've seen is the seafood industry, which was affected greatly by COVID-19 since early January 2020, when the lockdowns in China and around the world impacted the fishing seafood sector.”

“Sustainable fisheries are important economic drivers in coastal communities - I know that Governor Raimondo gets that. She understands that commercial fishermen, and the impacts that they have, will impact not just seafood processors, shipbuilding, trade, but also our restaurant economy. And marine anglers took in more than 194 million fishing trips, which fueled our outdoor recreation and tourism economy.”

Emphasizing the importance of trade to Washington’s economy and to supporting millions of American jobs, Cantwell also spoke about the important role the Department of Commerce will play in boosting U.S. exports and highlighted the need for Raimondo’s leadership in U.S.-EU Privacy Shield negotiations:

“I’m also counting on Governor Raimondo to help us with our export economy, everything from our ports, to farmers to aerospace, exports means jobs and about one in four jobs in the state of Washington are related to trade,” Cantwell said. “96 percent of the world's customers live outside of the United States… U.S. exporters need to be able to reach those markets and to grow the U.S. economy and grow U.S. jobs.”

“We must ensure the continued free flow of commercial data between the U.S. and Europe. A lot is at stake. U.S. and EU digital trade is worth more than $300 billion annually and includes more than $218 billion in U.S. exports to Europe. Every business that exports or imports or has a presence in investment in the United States or Europe will face difficulties if we don't resolve these issues and barriers to cross-border data transfer. So all of this is a very big risk, and we want Governor Raimondo to get to work on this very quickly and help resolve these issues. The free flow of data between the U.S. and Europe is critical to 5,000 tech companies in my state and more than $2.8 billion of digital exports in our economy,” Cantwell continued.

Continuing a theme she has highlighted throughout Raimondo’s confirmation process, Cantwell also spoke about the importance of returning science to the forefront of the department’s decision-making processes: “I know that she understands that as Secretary she can use those good scientific agencies within the Department of Commerce to better understand the impacts of climate and the impacts of COVID and what we can do. We know, in the State of Washington, that just a little bit of science done at the University of Washington helped us immensely in saving our shellfish industry.”

“I think that this is one of the most important things that Governor Raimondo can do as Secretary of Commerce: restore the respect for the scientific process, the scientific community, and the important issues that are going to be at the heart of how our coastal economies are impacted by climate… We need a leader in the Department of Commerce who will help us mitigate and adapt to those impacts.”

At her nomination hearing before the Senate Commerce Committee in January, Cantwell questioned Raimondo about her plans for salmon and fisheries management, protecting scientific integrity, and COVID-19 recovery, among other topics.

Video from Senator Cantwell’s floor speech is available HERE, audio is HERE, and a transcript is HERE.