June 27, 2013
By Dan Namowitz
The Senate has confirmed Charlotte, N.C., Mayor Anthony Foxx as the next U.S. Secretary of Transportation.
The Senate’s 100-0 vote to confirm Foxx, 42, as the nation’s seventeenth secretary of transportation came less than two months after his nomination by President Barack Obama to succeed Ray LaHood. LaHood had agreed to stay in office until a successor won confirmation.
“We congratulate Anthony Foxx on his confirmation as the nation’s seventeenth U.S. Secretary of Transportation. The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association is ready and willing to work with him on the important issues facing aviation in America today,” said AOPA President Craig Fuller. “Pilots throughout the United States enjoy the safest and most accessible aviation system in the world. It is AOPA’s aim to keep it that way. From the Next Generation air traffic control system, to a streamlined aircraft certification process that will enhance safety, to a reduction of the burdensome limits now placed on pilots, we look to Secretary Foxx to promote policies that will enable general aviation to continue to serve as an economic engine and vital component of our national transportation system.”
Foxx, a Democrat and political ally of Obama, has been mayor of Charlotte since 2009. He has prior Washington experience as a civil rights attorney for the Justice Department, and was staff counsel to the House Judiciary Committee. LaHood, a Republican, is a former member of Congress from Illinois.
News reports of the Senate’s June 27 confirmation vote said numerous contentious issues awaited Foxx—including tough decisions on funding for transportation infrastructure upgrades, and a “budget fight.”
Nowhere has that prospect been more evident than in the aviation sector: During outgoing Secretary LaHood’s final months in office, the impact of the federal budget sequester on the FAA was marked by abrupt changes in policy, and in some cases—such as the announced closing of 149 contract control towers—equally abrupt reversals. The volatile process could resume with the approach of the new federal fiscal year Oct. 1.
Challenges likely await the new Cabinet member in other areas within the Transportation department’s jurisdiction. Foxx’s hometown newspaper speculated whether, as secretary of transportation, he would move to throw his weight behind a “politically unpopular” increase in the gasoline tax to prop up the overstressed Highway Trust Fund.
The newspaper described LaHood as a “tough act to follow,” pointing to the outgoing secretary’s strong bipartisan ties in the Capitol, and his four years serving as a member of Obama’s cabinet.
On the morning of Foxx’s confirmation vote in the Senate, LaHood, made a farewell address at the National Press Club, noting that the polarized atmosphere in Congress was making it difficult to create transportation policy needed with much infrastructure at a “break point.”
Dan Namowitz is an aviation writer and flight instructor.
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