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Trump’s nominee to lead Commerce Department clears key Senate panel

Commerce Secretary-designate Wilbur Ross testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2017, at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Commerce Committee. (Manuel Balce Ceneta / Associated Press)
Commerce Secretary-designate Wilbur Ross testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2017, at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Commerce Committee. (Manuel Balce Ceneta / Associated Press)
By Ylan Q. Mui Washington Post

WASHINGTON – Billionaire investor Wilbur Ross, President Trump’s nominee to lead the Commerce Department, cleared a key Senate panel Tuesday with bipartisan support, signaling an easy path to confirmation.

The Senate commerce committee approved Ross’ nomination in a voice vote with no opposition. In a statement, committee Chairman Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., said lawmakers “hit the ground running.”

Ross amassed his fortune by investing in distressed industries that have been hard hit by the forces of globalization, including steel, coal and textiles. He was one of Trump’s key advisers on trade policy on the campaign trail and is slated to take a leading role in carrying out the White House’s promise to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement.

During his confirmation hearing, Ross advocated the need for bilateral trade deals rather than sweeping agreements such as the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership. On Monday, Trump issued an executive order canceling U.S. participation in the deal.

Ross also deflected questions about a household employee who could not produce proof of residency. Ross said the person had provided a Social Security card and driver’s license when hired in 2009. A Senate aide said the worker’s driver’s license had since expired. Ross said the employee was fired.

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