Obama's Transportation pick sails through Senate
The Senate has unanimously confirmed the nomination of Ray LaHood, President Barack Obama's pick for Secretary of Transportation, in a voice vote on the Senate floor.
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Mr. Steffen notes the central role that transportation will play in shaping America's energy future, from overseeing the bailout of the auto industry to building mass transit to determining if and when the US gets an electric-car infrastructure. "[I]n an era of climate change, energy crisis and economic distress," Steffen writes, "Transportation may be one of the most important posts in the president's cabinet."Skip to next paragraph
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Steffen is not alone in suggesting that Obama seems to be playing down the importance of the DOT. Streetsblog, which advocates for cyclists, pedestrians, and transit riders, notes that President Bush appointed a Democrat, Norman Mineta, as Transportation Secretary. This, according to Streetsblog, indicates that the positon is seen as a dumping ground for a token representative of the opposition.
As President George W. Bush did before him, Obama has chosen to use the transportation secretary slot as a place to show bipartisanship. "This sends the message that the transportation secretary is a throw-away political appointment who doesn’t matter,' said a city transportation official who, like others, asked to remain anonymous to preserve their relationship with the US DOT. "This is the slot for the token Republican. It’s the bottom of the barrel. A bone you can throw."
[O]ur transportation system and the development it enables must be sustainable. We must acknowledge the new reality of climate change. This has implications for all areas; investments in intercity rail and mass transit, as called for in the economic recovery and reinvestment plan, are part of the equation, but only part. Sustainability must be a principle reflected in all our infrastructure investments, from highways and transit to aviation and ports. President-elect Obama is committed to this principle and so am I.
According to Reuters, LaHood also said that he would move quickly to finalize a sharp increase in fuel efficiency standards. The Bush administration had signed off on rules to raise the average for cars and trucks by 25 percent, to 32 miles per gallon, by 2015, but held off on finalizing these rules amid the turmoil in the auto industry.
LaHood also said that he would work to get full funding for Amtrak. Last year, Congress authorized about $13 billion in funding over five years to the intercity rail system. As the liberal blog Think Progress notes, LaHood has broken with many in his party to increase funding for Amtrak. He is a member of the overwhelmingly Democratic Congressional Bike Caucus.