This morning, the Trump transition team announced Elaine Chao as the pick for Secretary of Transportation. Here’s what you should know about her:

Who Is Elaine Chao?

Elaine Chao is an experienced politician, having served as Deputy Secretary of Transportation under President George H.W. Bush and Secretary of Labor under George W. Bush. Born in Taiwan, Chao was the first Asian-American woman to hold a cabinet-level position in the United States. She holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from Mount Holyoke College and an MBA from Harvard Business School, and worked as a banker for Citicorp and bank of America prior to entering politics. Chao has held a role as a Distinguished Fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation, sits on a number of non-profit boards, and is a contributor to Fox News and other media outlets.

Elaine Chao is married to current Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican from Kentucky. Her father is James S.C. Chao, a shipping magnate who founded the Foremost Group. She is the oldest of six sisters.

Nominated Position: Secretary of Transportation

According to the DOT website, the Transportation secretary “oversees the formulation of national transportation policy and promotes intermodal transportation. Other responsibilities range from negotiation and implementation of international transportation agreements, assuring the fitness of US airlines, enforcing airline consumer protection regulations, issuance of regulations to prevent alcohol and illegal drug misuse in transportation systems and preparing transportation legislation.”

In other words, the Secretary of Transportation oversees and manages all federal transportation matters including air, sea, and land transportation. The Department of Transportation employs over 55,000 people and has a budget of around $70 million.


Elaine Chao is an experienced and relatively uncontroversial pick for Trump’s Secretary of Transportation. Well-known and liked on Capitol Hill, Chao will probably not face any significant opposition to her confirmation by the Senate. As Transportation Secretary, Chao may have responsibilities that are expanded beyond those of previous Secretaries, especially if Donald Trump’s massive proposed infrastructure project is approved and implemented.