When Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx (D) shows up on Capitol Hill Wednesday for his confirmation hearing to replace Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, everyone agrees he can expect a very civil greeting.
Nobody’s betting on where it goes from there. It all depends on how hard Foxx gets pushed by those senators who have bridled at LaHood’s grand vision that things other than highways and bridges have an equal place in the galaxy of transportation spending.
LaHood’s pronouncement of “the end of favoring motorized transportation at the expense of non-motorized” and his desire to “coerce people out of their cars” still has conservatives shaking their head in disbelief.
The Heritage Foundation has published a list of questions it hopes senators will pose in hope they can get Foxx to repudiate LaHood’s bike-transit-rail-friendly stance.
That doesn’t seem likely to happen. Though Foxx’s tenure on the public stage is a short one — he’s been mayor of Charlotte since 2009 — he’s made his name in part by supporting transit projects in his hometown.
Foxx, a 42-year-old who would be the youngest member of the cabinet, can expect questions about the administration’s commitment to high-speed rail, a devotion that some critics have described as the right idea at the wrong time. Right because it keeps the United States in step with the rest of the world, wrong because it requires a huge investment at a time when spending is being slashed.
The Heritage Foundation also wants Foxx quizzed about whether Federal Highway Trust funds should be spent on bicycle and pedestrian infrastructures, and highway landscaping projects that sometimes are used to manage storm water runoff.
The conservative foundation would like to see more federal money transferred to states with few or no strings attached. The questions it would have posed also challenge the belief that mass transit is an antidote to urban congestion, and suggest that the liveable communities programs are “herding” Americans to “deter them from using automobiles, and nudge them onto streetcars and bicycles.”
Foxx will be introduced at the senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee by North Carolina’s two senators, Democrat Kay Hagan and Republican Richard Burr. Burr told Politico that he supports Foxx’s nomination but wasn’t pushing him hard with fellow Republicans.
“Only thing I do with all North Carolinians, I ask that [senators] show them the courtesy of meeting with them,” Burr told Politico.
WATCH: President Obama nominates Anthony Foxx.