President Obama travels a bumpy road on many Capital Hill issues, but the Senate loves the people he picks to head the U.S. Department of Transportation.
The Senate unanimously approved Obama’s second nominee for the post on Thursday, voting 100-0 to put former Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx in the president’s cabinet as secretary of transportation. The Senate was unanimous four years ago in backing the man Foxx will replace: former GOP congressman Ray LaHood.
An hour before the senators began voting on his replacement, LaHood held court for a final time as secretary just up Pennsylvania Avenue in the National Press Club. He ticked off a long list of notable accomplishments to a room full of reporters, most of whom had chronicled his crusade against distracted driving, his cash-for-clunkers program, his recall challenge to Toyota, his quest to bring high speed trains to the U.S., and his incessant insistence on safety before all else.
LaHood also took advantage of his swan
song as a cabinet member to reflect on more than three decades in Washington, including 14 years holding a congressional seat once occupied by Abraham Lincoln, Everett Dirksen and his mentor, Bob Michel. All three men were leaders, and they all knew the art of crafting compromise.
“Leaders conduct themselves with civility,” he said, lamenting the degree to which that has been lost in modern Washington. “They create an atmosphere in which problems can be solved.
“Compromise is not a bad word. The attitude of people who get elected to Congress has got to be that the country has issues that need to be solved.”
As to his tenure at USDOT: “I’m a forward looking person. I have no regrets. This is the best job I ever had.”
And the future: He’d like to serve on the boards of some non-profit groups. He plans to split time between his home in Peoria, Ill., and Washington, but first “I’m going to take July and August and hope the phone rings and see who’s on the other end.”
In typical self-deprecating fashion — friends often say that with LaHood, “what you see is what you get” — he answered a question about the likelihood that Americans might drive more in the future with this:
“That’s a question for somebody whose very intellectual and very smart. I’m more of a practical person.”