Earlier this week on Monday, the Senate voted 72-27 to confirm Wilbur Ross as Commerce Secretary. While the vote for Ross showed strong support, it came nearly three months after President Trump nominated the 79-year-old billionaire investor.
The Ross nomination was initially met with some skepticism by Senate Democrats. There were concerns about his massive financial holdings and potential conflicts of interest.
There were also concerns about Ross’s relationship with Viktor Vekselberg, a Bank of Cyprus shareholder who has been described as a friend of Russian President Vladimir Putin. The relationship with Vekelsberg was questioned, because Ross also serves on the board of the Bank of Cyprus.
Ross has agreed to resign from his firm but will remain a “passive investor” in several of his current investment vehicles. He also will resign from the board of the Bank of Cyprus and communicated to the Senate that he had only met with the bank’s Russian investors once in 2014. He also stated that he had no knowledge of any financial relationship or interaction between Bank of Cyprus and the Trump organization or presidential campaign.
Interestingly enough, Democratic Senator Bill Nelson of Florida, the leading Democrat on the Senate’s Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, threw his support behind Ross and urged other Democrats to follow suit. “He is certainly qualified to do this job, and he gave extensive answers during his confirmation hearing before the Commerce Committee,” Nelson said. He described Ross as a “very good selection” and praised him for being willing to enter public service “at his age.”
Wouldn’t it be great if other Democrat senators could take Senator Nelson’s lead and rally support around Trump’s nominees once the hearings are over?
Now that Ross is confirmed, he will play a critical role in trade relations including President Trump’s plans to renegotiate NAFTA and withdraw from the TPP.
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