December 18, 2008
By Warren D. Morningstar
Illinois Rep. Ray LaHood
President-elect Barack Obama nominated retiring Illinois Rep. Ray LaHood as Secretary of Transportation on Dec. 19. The seven-term congressman has served on the House aviation subcommittee and had earned AOPA’s endorsement for election.
Obama called LaHood an “outstanding public servant.” The president-elect said he was committed to finding the best person for the job, regardless of party. LaHood’s appointment reflects the “bipartisan spirit that we need to reclaim in this country to make progress.” He said LaHood has embodied bipartisanship “throughout all of his years of public service.”
LaHood currently is a member of the House Appropriations Committee. “That’s a good sign for pilots,” said AOPA President-elect Craig Fuller. “The Appropriations Committee has adamantly opposed aviation user fees, and with that experience, his input at the White House should be helpful to general aviation. And his past efforts in supporting GA airports indicate that he understands the importance of general aviation to the national transportation infrastructure."
LaHood has been a leading advocate for improving the state of Illinois’ transportation infrastructure, including being a proponent for improving local airports.
“We have a task before us to rebuild America,” said LaHood. “I understand what good infrastructure and transportation means to local communities.”
The moderate Republican is known for consensus building and has long-term relationships with both Obama and his chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel.
“That’s a critical relationship in Washington,” said Fuller. “It means LaHood would have great access to the President and his full confidence.”
In a letter congratulating LaHood on his nomination, Fuller said, “I want to express our enthusiasm in working with you in shaping aviation policy that improves safety and supports the air transportation system that is vital to the nation’s economy. Your background in Congress as a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and its aviation subcommittee gives you a special insight into the aviation industry and many of the issues we face. Your understanding of the importance of the economic impact of aviation is especially important as you take on this leadership role.”
House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman James Oberstar (D-Minn.) praised LaHood for his “legacy of civility, of decency, of bringing people together, of reaching consensus, and reaching across party lines.” He said that LaHood would be “an excellent, superb, in fact, secretary of Transportation…. What Ray LaHood brings to the department, and what the department needs, is managerial talent and the right temperament to get the job done,” Oberstar added.
Said Fuller, “If LaHood is confirmed as Transportation Secretary, AOPA would look forward to working closely with him to pick the right leader for the FAA and to address the challenges of aviation safety; modernizing the nation’s air traffic control system; establishing a fair, long-term financing system; and responding to energy and environmental issues.”
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