Senate hearing Wednesday for Obama’s pick for DOT chief

| 1/20/2009

The day after the inauguration of Barack Obama as the nation’s 44th president, the eyes of the transportation world will be focused on two major issues: the proposed economic stimulus package being considered on Capitol Hill and a Senate confirmation hearing for Obama’s designated secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation will hold a confirmation hearing Wednesday, Jan. 21, for retired Rep. Ray LaHood, R-IL, whom Obama has tapped to replace former Transportation Secretary Mary Peters. The hearing for LaHood is scheduled for 2 p.m. EST.

LaHood was nominated by Obama in December 2008 and has been lauded as a lawmaker capable of securing needed funding for transportation projects in his home state of Illinois.

However, following his appointment and leading up to his originally scheduled confirmation hearing, LaHood faced criticism for some earmarks he credited with securing.

More specifically on trucking issues, LaHood voted against continuing the cross-border trucking program with Mexico.

LaHood’s retirement from the U.S. House of Representatives was effective with the start of the current Congress. He served seven terms in the House representing Illinois.

During his tenure in the House, The Almanac of American Politics notes that he has assumed leadership roles during a few notable times in history.

The Almanac reports that during House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s last days in office, LaHood was one of only three Republicans who did not sign the “Contract with America.” He refused to sign because he had reservations about voting for tax cuts before the budget was balanced.

Following that break from the Republican ranks, LaHood joined forces with Democrat David Skaggs to start a bipartisan retreat “to foster a Congress that is more civil and to create better communication among members.”

“The Almanac” was complimentary of LaHood’s ability to hand down evenhanded rulings and his ability to maintain decorum when he presided over the House on occasion.

He was also called on to preside over the impeachment of former President Bill Clinton.

– By Senior Editor Jami Jones and Staff Writer David Tanner