According to numerous media reports, President-elect Barack Obama has selected Rep. Ray LaHood (R-IL) as Transportation Secretary. LaHood did not run for re-election and announced that he would step down from Congress at the end of the current session.
The second Republican in Obama’s Cabinet, LaHood has a reputation as a moderate who has worked on bipartisan solutions, according to the Chicago Tribune. While he does not currently serve on any transportation committees in Congress, he formerly served on the House Transportation Committee and has been a strong proponent of increasing funding for infrastructure.
“Ray has led efforts to enhance Illinois’ infrastructure,” LaHood’s official website said. “He has worked to secure funds to improve local highways, such as the reconstruction of Interstate 74 in Peoria, the expansion of U.S. Route 67, and the completion of Route 336. Ray has been a proponent for improving local airports through securing funds for new construction and expansion, while also working with officials to increase air service.”
“If indeed this is true, Mr. LaHood would be an excellent pick by the Obama administration,” said Rod Nofziger, director of government affairs for the Owner-Operators Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA). “It’s very encouraging and would be a great thing for small-business truckers.”
LaHood would replace Mary Peters, who has been Secretary of Transportation since 2006. The official announcement could come as early as tomorrow, as Obama plans to leave for Hawaii to celebrate the Christmas holiday this weekend, media reports said.
According to the Minnesota Independent, LaHood has been a supporter of federal funding for public transit, voting with the Democrats to expand Amtrak over the objections of President Bush and House Republicans in 2007 and for the Saving Energy through Public Transportation Act of 2008. He also went against the majority in his party last week when he voted for the Big Three automakers bailout.
In addition, LaHood is friendly with President-elect Obama and his White House chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, with whom he co-hosted a series of bi-partisan dinners for members of Congress, the Tribune said.
LaHood’s district, the 18th, is home to Peoria, IL-based Caterpillar, Inc. According to the Associated Press, LaHood and Sen. Dick Durban (D-IL) teamed up to secure $3.6 million in 2007 to help Caterpillar determine the prospects of the Army developing a combat vehicle with a better diesel engine.
Union organizations have approved of the pick. “Congressman Ray LaHood has been a long-time, strong ally in the Teamsters’ unwavering fight to stop unsafe Mexican trucks from traveling freely throughout the United States,” said Teamsters general president Jim Hoffa. “As a moderate Republican, he has been a friend to the Teamsters Union on a number of important issues, including funding for Amtrak.”
“Congressman Ray LaHood has been a friend to our union when it comes to construction and transportation issues,” said Terry O'Sullivan, general president of the Laborers' International Union of North America (LIUNA). “President Obama said he would have a bipartisan administration and we look forward to working with the next Transportation Secretary to build America's transportation system.”