by David Shepardson (Reuters) – The U.S. Senate Commerce Committee will consider President-elect Joe Biden’s nomination of Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo to head the Commerce Department in a hearing on Jan. 26.
(The secretary of commerce oversees the United States Federal Maritime Commission, NOAA, and dictates some maritime trade policies. Raimondo will be replacing former ship owner Wilbur Ross.)
If confirmed, Raimondo will face a number of unresolved issues, including the completion of the 2020 Census, which was supposed to be completed by year’s end but was delayed by the coronavirus pandemic.
The Census Bureau’s director is resigning nearly a year ahead of schedule on Wednesday after the department’s Office of Inspector General raised questions about whether he was pushing bureau employees to finalize a technical report on the number of undocumented immigrants in the United States.
The Census count’s accuracy is critical, as the survey guides the federal government in allocating $1.5 trillion a year in aid in addition to determining U.S. House seats.
The Commerce Department and its bureaus have about 46,000 employees, which also includes the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Weather Service and the Foreign Commercial Service. It also helps negotiate trade agreements, and enforces laws on trade and national security.
Raimondo will inherit the Trump administration’s so far unsuccessful efforts to bar U.S. app stores from offering Chinese-owned TikTok or WeChat for download.
Three U.S. judges have blocked Commerce Department orders issued under Trump that sought to bar new downloads of the two apps and impose restrictions on WeChat and TikTok that would effectively bar their use. Those rulings are now on appeal before U.S. circuit courts.
Commerce officials said Wynn Coggins, who is deputy assistant secretary for administration, has been designated to serve as the acting Commerce secretary.
(Reporting by David Shepardson, Editing by Chris Reese and Sonya Hepinstall, Reuters)
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