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Illinois Congressman Ray LaHood has been nominated by president-elect Obama to be the next Secretary of Transportation. LaHood has represented the Peoria area in Congress for 14 years and is the first Republican to be chosen for Obama’s cabinet. Although LaHood spent six years on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, his Wikipedia entry is mildly critical of his “thin” experience in transportation issues. The unions have also been critical of him for his stance on the card check issue and for voting to allow the FAA to impose a contract on the air traffic controller’s union.
On the positive side LaHood is well liked by advocates of light passenger rail and bicycle trails. Whether LaHood can wrap his arms around the Department of Transportation with its $70-billion budget and 60,000 employees and steer it towards Obama’s ambitious infrastructure spending goals remains to be seen. (Of course he still has to be approved and the Illinois state government is exploding with scandals, some transportation related–see the post below this one.)
On the bright side LaHood gets kudos for being non-partisan. He founded a series of retreats a few years back to reach out to democrats and look for ways to reduce the bickering. That may be just the touch that’s needed to bring Republicans into agreement with the president elect’s ambitious plans.