WASHINGTON (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.
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.
Under pressure from the U.S. government, ByteDance has been in talks for months to finalize a deal with Walmart Inc and Oracle Corp to shift TikTok’s U.S. assets into a new entity to address U.S. security concerns.
People briefed on the matter said Tuesday it was unlikely any deal would be reached before Trump leaves office on Wednesday. The Treasury Department did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
The Commerce Department also filed a petition with the Federal Communications Commision (FCC) at Trump’s urging in July that sought to impose limitations on legal protections enjoyed by social media companies. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said this month he would take no action on the petition before leaving office. The petition is still pending.
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)