Cantwell Takes Over as Chair of Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation—First Woman to Chair the Committee

New Chair identifies three priorities: COVID-19 relief, planning for the information age, addressing economic disparities

WASHINGTON, D.C. – At a hearing today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) officially took over as Chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, becoming the first woman to chair the committee in its history.

In her remarks, Cantwell thanked Roger Wicker (R-MS) for his leadership of the committee and for the bipartisanship that helped them pass a number of major accomplishments into law, including landmark aviation safety legislation and the reauthorization of the Coast Guard. She also spoke about following in the footsteps of longtime Washington Senator Warren Magnuson, who chaired the committee for 22 years between 1955 and 1977.

“Senator Warren Magnuson… chaired this committee for a couple of decades,” Cantwell said. “35 years ago, as a young worker in the state of Washington, I had an opportunity to go over to Senator Magnuson's house in Magnolia, Washington, and have coffee with him and Senator Dan Inouye… I had no idea that many years ago that I'd be sitting in this seat today. And the most important thing about, I think, that day, and those two individuals who some of us actually got to know, is that this committee can operate in a collegial fashion. We can get important work done for the people of the United States.”

Cantwell also spoke about her priorities for the committee in the 117th Congress, starting with passing more COVID-19 relief and protecting consumers from pandemic-related fraud and abuse:

“We have to continue addressing the COVID pandemic and the crisis in the impact that it’s having on our economy. We're right now in the midst of another transportation package to help revive our economy and help continue to work,” Cantwell said. “We are looking to our FTC to make sure that there are no fraudulent products and materials out here, like masks, that my state is facing.

Specifically calling out an ongoing issue with masks in Washington, Cantwell said: “I’m planning to send a letter to the FTC today asking them to investigate this fraudulent mask exposure that the Washington State Hospital Association has uncovered.”

Cantwell identified two other priorities: addressing the challenges we face living in an information age and confronting disparities in the economy.

“We live in an information age, and we just have to own up to it. To me it's better to prepare for that information age, so everything from privacy to broadband to AI to cybersecurity to STEM. I look forward to working with all my colleagues who have had so much legislation introduced on that.”

“I do think our committee has to work hard in this information age at the disparities that we have in our economy. I do think, just like this committee dealt with the 1964 Civil Rights Act, I do think that we can work together… And, to my fellow colleagues, all of you but particularly the women, I hope that we can do a better job on strategies to help women in the workforce, particularly in the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering, and math. I may be the first woman of this committee, but I can tell you this--I don't plan on being the last.”

Video of the gavel transfer and Senator Cantwell’s remarks is available HERE, audio is HERE, and the transcript is HERE.