LaHood Accepts Transportation Secretary Job
Updated 6:07 p.m.
By Paul Kane and Philip Rucker
Rep. Ray LaHood (R-Ill.) last night accepted an offer to become President-elect Barack Obama's transportation secretary and the nomination will be made official in coming days, two senior Democratic officials said.
LaHood, 63, who is retiring after representing a rural downstate district in Congress since 1995, becomes the second Republican tapped for Obama's Cabinet. In recent years, LaHood developed a close relationship with Obama and the man who will become his White House chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, becoming a key player on the House Appropriations Committee on behalf of the Illinois delegation. A moderate Republican, LaHood has not shied away from criticizing the Bush administration and has a reputation for working with leaders of both political parties.
From his perch atop the Department of Transportation, LaHood will be a key player in the new administration's public works projects designed to stimulate the struggling economy.
The grandson of Lebanese immigrants, LaHood grew up in Peoria and earned a bachelor's degree from Bradley University. He taught junior high school students in Catholic schools and later was elected to the Illinois House of Representatives. He also served as a congressional aide, rising to chief of staff to then-House Minority Leader Robert H. Michel (R-Ill.).
LaHood was elected to Congress in the Republican Revolution of 1994 and has developed a centrist voting record and a reputation as a deficit hawk. He was one of only three Republicans who did not sign former House Speaker Newt Gingrich's "Contract with America," according to the Almanac of American Politics. He developed national fame when he presided over the impeachment of President Bill Clinton.
Kenneth P. Quinn, a former Federal Aviation Administration chief counsel who now is a partner at the Pillsbury law firm, hailed LaHood as an "outstanding bipartisan pick for the new president."
"But he's going to be facing extremely daunting challenges in the industry, particularly in aviation, to restore badly strained labor management relations at the FAA," Quinn said. "At the same time, he'll have to effectively modernize our air traffic control system and deal with very pressing competition and congestion problems."
Like Obama, LaHood has a special appreciation of President Abraham Lincoln and has been an advocate for protecting the 16th president's legacy in Congress. LaHood authored the law establishing the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission, which is developing plans for Lincoln's 200th birthday next year. LaHood also helped establish the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, according to his congressional biography.
LaHood and his wife, Kathy, have four children and seven grandchildren.
Posted at 5:04 PM ET on Dec 17, 2008
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