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Sen. Maria Cantwell Takes Over Commerce Committee

Sen. Maria Cantwell accepts the gavel from former Senate Commerce Chair Roger Wicker
Sen. Maria Cantwell accepts the gavel from former Senate Commerce Chair Roger Wicker (Image credit: N/A)

Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) has officially taken over the chair of the powerful Senate Commerce Committee, the first woman to hold that post.

That came at a Feb. 11 executive session on the budget for and rules governing the committee, where the gavel was symbolically and literally passed from the former chairman, Mississippi Republican Roger Wicker.

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Commerce oversees the FCC and Federal Trade Commission and oversees communications and communications competition issues and mergers, the latter along with the Judiciary Committee.

She signaled in her inaugural hearing opening statement as chair that among her priorities for the committee will be passing COVID-19 relief legislation, which includes billions of dollars for broadband connectivity, as swell as protecting consumers from pandemic-related fraud.

Also on the committee's to do list, she said, are "owning up to the information age," including by protecting privacy and extending broadband to cybersecurity, AI and STEM education.

"[T]o my fellow colleagues, all of you but particularly the women, I hope that we can do a better job on strategies to help women in the workforce, particularly in the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering, and math," she said upon taking over the gavel. "I may be the first woman [to lead] this committee, but I can tell you this--I don't plan on being the last.”