Ten years ago today, Ray LaHood was gaveling in House impeachment proceedings against President Clinton. Today, President-elect Barack Obama announced that he would be serving as the next Secretary of Transportation.
LaHood is a moderate Republican who has broken with his party over Amtrak funding, voting yes last summer to expand passenger rail service. He also broke with the GOP on the Saving Energy Through Transportation Act. In 2005, he told the Peoria Journal-Star, “We’ve got a good Amtrak system in Illinois and I don’t think we want to destroy it by talking about privatization.”
Friends of the Earth responded to the LaHood nomination by saying: “While his overall record on energy and environment issues is poor, LaHood has in recent years broken with many in his party to support crucial investments in passenger rail and public transportation, and he is a member of the Congressional Bike Caucus.” LaHood also supported the bicycle commuter benefit bill.
But while LaHood has certain strengths, working long hours away from home doesn’t appear to be one of them. When Democrats ousted the right-wing Do-Nothing Congress in 2006, LaHood worried about returning to a five-day work week:
Rep. Ray LaHood (R-Ill.), 61, one of those who announced he’s packing it in, said that the Democrats’ new five-day workweek made traveling back home that much more difficult.
“I do think the schedule and the flying is a huge pain for people, particularly those who are from the Midwest or even further West,” he said, adding that it’s “probably the worst part of the job.”
“I think that has played into these retirement announcements,” said the seven-term congressman from Peoria.
In May 2007, LaHood was part of an 11-person group that went to the White House to urge Bush to change direction on Iraq, a brazen act which earned him the wrath of Karl Rove. LaHood continued to support the Bush strategy in Iraq.
Over the last two years — after announcing his early retirement from the House — LaHood has been more open to criticizing Republicans. “The [GOP] strategy is to lay low and then blame [Democrats] for not getting anything done,” he said. “The truth is, we all lose.” He also heralded the new House leadership: “They [Democratic leaders] can send their members home crowing about their accomplishments, and they’ve done it in a bipartisan way, which is exactly what they promised to do.”
Obama also announced Hilda Solis as his new Secretary of Labor. The Wonk Room’s Brad Johnson takes a look at her strong record on labor and environmental issues. Read more about Solis in today’s Progress Report.