Without fanfare, the Senate last week unanimously approved President Obama's pick to head the Department of Transportation, Anthony Foxx, who previously was mayor of Charlotte, North Carolina. With Foxx's confirmation, Obama's first-term Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood steps down.
Check out my colleague Matt Vasilogambros's take on Foxx here:
Foxx will be facing familiar transportation issues in Washington D.C. A highway bill renewal isn't far off, and it has all the same budget problems that vexed LaHood. Foxx's transportation likings appear to involve mass transit, judging from his time in Charlotte when he proved himself to be quite the light rail enthusiast. If that verve translates to national policy, his interests should dovetail nicely with the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee's reauthorization of Amtrak this year. (No word yet on how he feels about privatization, though.)
But before zeroing in on Foxx, let's spend a moment saying goodbye LaHood. He led the Transportation Department through two long-sought congressional reauthorizations for the Federal Aviation Administration and the surface transportation system. He became a powerful advocate for the administration in Congress, capitalizing on his many years as a member of the House of Representatives. He was nothing less than a bulldog in disparaging lawmakers when they allowed a temporary shutdown of the FAA in 2011.
Policymakers in Washington, D.C. are less familiar with Foxx than they were with LaHood, who was popular with reporters and known for running the House like a kindly drill sergeant before he vacated his seat. Foxx is like LaHood in that he has no special expertise in transportation issues coming in to the job, but he has a fair amount of experience in government. A Charlotte native, Foxx worked for the House Judiciary Committee and the Justice Department before he returned to Charlotte, where he sat on the city council and eventually became mayor.
What are the best accomplishments of LaHood? What are tasks that he left unfinished? How should we remember LaHood as transportation secretary? What can Foxx learn from LaHood? As more of a Washington outsider, does Foxx have advantages that LaHood didn't have? What are our best hopes from Foxx?