President Donald Trump has a Commerce secretary.
Vice President Mike Pence has administered the oath of office to Wilbur Ross on Tuesday, a day after the Senate voted 72-27 to confirm him.
Ross will help promote American business interests in the U.S. and abroad. He’ll also oversee agencies that manage fisheries, weather forecasting and the Census Bureau, which will conduct the next national headcount in 2020.
Ross has said the administration will work quickly to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico.
The 79-year-old Ross is worth an estimated $2.9 billion and has extensive business ties around the world. He has promised not to take any action as secretary that would benefit any company in which he has a financial interest.
Senators from both political parties were deferential to Ross at his nearly four-hour confirmation hearing, which was much more subdued than the confirmation hearings of other Trump nominees. Former commerce secretaries have praised him, including one who served under former President Barack Obama.
“Mr. Ross will bring decades of business, entrepreneurial and civic experience to this important position,” said Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., chairman of the Commerce Committee. “I believe his extensive management experience in the private sector, and his understanding of the challenges faced by workers and businesses alike, will equip him well for the job of leading the Department of Commerce.”
Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts criticized Ross’ business ties to Russia and the way he ran a mortgage lender during the housing crisis.
“Mr. Ross has extensive ties to Russia. He plans to keep making money from his major oil shipping companies while working as Commerce Secretary. He’s made billions off the backs of struggling home owners,” Warren said Monday. “He is practically a cartoon stereotype of a Wall Street fat cat.”
As part of his ethics agreement, Ross is giving up his position at Diamond S. Shipping, but he will retain a stake in the company, which ships petroleum and other products. As part of the agreement, Ross has promised not to take any action as commerce secretary that would benefit any company in which he has a financial interest.
At his confirmation hearing, Ross was not asked about business ties to Russia or his work as a mortgage lender, and he did not address the issues.
Senators did note that Ross is divesting from much of his business empire.
So far, the Senate has confirmed 15 out of 22 Trump Cabinet or Cabinet-level picks requiring confirmation. Senators also moved forward Monday on Trump’s nomination of Montana Rep. Ryan Zinke to lead the Interior Department, voting 67-31 to limit debate. A final vote on confirmation could occur on Tuesday or Wednesday.