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Federal City Digest

Thursday, February 19, 2009

High-Speed Rail To the White House

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood sent the White House a "comprehensive memo" with recommendations on how to jump-start high-speed rail service nationally, he told reporters yesterday. The memo identified several potential high-speed rail corridors in the country and addressed potential means of paying for a system. LaHood said President Obama wants to make high-speed rail a signature achievement of his presidency.

LaHood also said selections for administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration and the No. 2 slot at the Transportation Department were going through a "tortuous" vetting process at the White House, our colleague Sholnn Freeman reports. The secretary said administration officials are taking their time because "they don't want to get burned." Front-runners for those jobs are Randy Babbitt and Jane Garvey, respectively.

LaHood admitted that he tried to sway former Republican counterparts in the House to back Obama's economic stimulus plan but failed -- to the consternation of the White House.

"I think I fell down on my responsibilities," LaHood said. "I think they were looking for me to find a few [votes] in the House."

WHAT TO WATCH

· Obama travels to Ottawa this morning for his first international trip since moving into the White House. The president will be greeted at Ottawa International Airport by Canada's governor general, Michaelle Jean, and her husband, Jean-Daniel Lafond, before heading to a meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper on Ottawa's Parliament Hill. A working lunch follows with Harper, selected Canadian government ministers, and members of Obama's delegation, including national security adviser James L. Jones, National Economic Council Chairman Lawrence H. Summers, White House energy and climate coordinator Carole M. Browner, presidential counterterrorism adviser John Brennan and Deputy Secretary of State James B. Steinberg.

· Vice President Biden presides over the ceremonial swearing-in of Director Leon Panetta at the CIA; Energy Secretary Steven Chu discusses "President Obama's American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan" downtown for the Platts Energy Podium; and Michelle Obama visits the Agriculture Department.

-- Garance Franke-Ruta federalcity@washpost.com

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