Pete Buttigieg, candidate for US Secretary of Transportation for US President Joe Biden, speaks during a confirmation hearing of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation in Washington, DC, the United States, January 21, 2021 . Stefani Reynolds / Pool via REUTERS

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Pete Buttigieg, a former mayor who challenged Joe Biden for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, won approval from the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee on Wednesday 21-3 to head the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The entire Senate will vote this week on Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, who will oversee aviation, highways, vehicles, pipelines and transit as Biden’s transportation secretary .

Biden, who entered the White House a week ago, offered $ 20 billion in additional government assistance to help U.S. transit systems grappling with a massive drop in ridership amid the pandemic of COVID-19.

Congress has allocated $ 39 billion in emergency funding for transit systems, including $ 14 billion approved last month and $ 65 billion in government loans and bailouts to U.S. airlines. Lawmakers have allocated $ 12 billion to airports and $ 2 billion to Amtrak passenger train service.

Last week, New York City Council Chairman Corey Johnson wrote to Buttigieg asking him to immediately authorize the implementation of New York’s congestion pricing plan requiring drivers to pay a surcharge in certain areas. Manhattan neighborhoods with heavy traffic.

The plan to impose tolls on drivers entering Manhattan below 60th Street is expected to generate up to $ 1 billion in annual revenue.

Buttigieg must decide whether to fund a planned $ 13 billion tunnel connecting New York and New Jersey in the busy northeast rail corridor. Senator Bob Menendez, a Democrat from New Jersey, said the Trump administration had delayed a key environmental impact statement for years.

Biden wants to dramatically increase spending on U.S. infrastructure and is committed to strengthening fuel economy standards that were reduced under Trump and replacing the government’s fleet of vehicles with electric vehicles.

Former President Donald Trump has never had a head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) confirmed by the Senate, which conducts numerous auto safety investigations.

Reporting by David Shepardson, editing by Franklin Paul and Howard Goller

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