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Senators to Question Trump's Commerce Department Chief Nominee

FILE - Billionaire investor Wilbur Ross departs Trump Tower after a meeting with U.S. President-elect Donald Trump in New York.

Donald Trump's nominee to head the U.S. Commerce Department is scheduled to be questioned by a Senate committee Wednesday about his qualifications to head an agency responsible for bolstering the economy, international trade and many other tasks from forecasting the weather to taking the census.

Wilbur Ross is a multi-billionaire who made a fortune buying up failing companies, improving their financial performance, and often selling them at a profit. He is 79, and was educated at top universities, but has no government experience.

Trump calls Ross "a champion of American manufacturing who knows how to help companies succeed." Stories in the financial press say Ross has a good understanding of finance, major industries and trade. Supporters say his actions saved U.S. jobs in coal, steel and textile industries.

Critics say Ross also outsourced jobs to low wage nations and laid-off American workers. He also has been criticized for the 2006 death of 12 workers at a coal mine he owned in West Virginia. The Sago coal mine had a history of numerous safety violations.

Published reports say Donald Trump may give the commerce secretary a larger-than-usual role in international trade. Ross has done considerable business in China. But recently, Ross and other members of the Trump administration have been sharply critical of Beijing's trade practices.