(Bloomberg) -- President Joe Biden’s pick to run the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration won the approval of the Senate, giving the agency its first full-time chief since 2017.
Steven Cliff has been the agency’s interim chief since January 2021. He is a former deputy executive officer at the California Air Resources Board, which regulates auto emissions in the Golden State. A key senator previously had blocked Cliff from advancing to the post for months, but he was was approved on a voice vote Thursday after navigating through a smooth confirmation vote in a Senate committee.
NHTSA, the federal regulator charged with keeping US roads safe, had been in its fifth year without a permanent administrator.
Prior to tapping Cliff, Biden faced pressure to appoint a permanent NHTSA chief from safety advocates who were concerned about uptick in the number of US traffic deaths despite reduced driving early in the pandemic. Additionally, the agency has ramped up its politically fraught investigation of Tesla Inc. and may be on a collision course with the electrive-vehicle maker over its controversial Autopilot system.
Biden needed to renominate many of his transportation picks, including Cliff, last year after their nominations lapsed over the Senate’s holiday recess.
US Senator Rick Scott, a Florida Republican, had been stalling on Transportation and Commerce Department nominees since November, saying that he will continue until the commerce panel convenes a hearing with the departments’ secretaries on supply-chain bottlenecks. A Scott spokesperson confirmed he released the hold after Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo agreed to testify before the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee on April 27.
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