WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama on Monday tapped rising Democratic politician Anthony Foxx to lead the Department of Transportation.
The afternoon announcement at the White House was only a formality; the White House leaked Foxx’s impending nomination Sunday.
Reaction to the announcement from the trucking industry was swift — and courteous.
“On behalf of ATA, I’d like to congratulate Mayor Foxx on his nomination as transportation secretary and say we look forward to working with him once he’s confirmed by the Senate,” Bill Graves, president and CEO of the American Trucking Associations said in a prepared statement. “As mayor of a large city, Mayor Foxx dealt with very similar challenges with regard to transportation issues that I did when I was governor – chiefly responding to the demands of constituents and developing a multimodal transportation network.
“As someone who can appreciate how hard it can be do actually do that, I wish Mayor Foxx luck and I look forward to working with him to ensure that Americans have the first-rate, world-class transportation system they deserve.”
Graves, a Republican, is a former governor of Kansas.
House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster, R-Pa., said he was pleased the president had put forward a candidate to lead the DOT to replace outgoing Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, who announced weeks ago he was leaving the Cabinet.
“Transportation is important for our country. These issues are about jobs, quality of life, and prosperity,” Shuster said. “I remain committed to building consensus about how to strengthen our infrastructure, promote economic growth, and make the nation more competitive in the global marketplace. Once he has been confirmed by the Senate, I look forward to working with Mayor Foxx to achieve these goals for our country.”
Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV, D-W. Va., chairman of the Senate Committee on Science, Transportation and Commerce, in front of which Foxx’s confirmation hearing will be held, pledged to move the nomination forward as soon as possible.
“Our country faces daunting transportation challenges. We must make critical investments in our transportation network to remain economically competitive in the 21st Century,” Rockefeller said. “Mayor Anthony Foxx has established himself as a strong transportation advocate and shown the ability to move transportation infrastructure projects in Charlotte. He can be a driving force in the federal effort to take advantage of transportation opportunities. I look forward to meeting Mayor Foxx and discussing his vision for the Department and our transportation needs.”
Edward Wytkind, president of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD), said Foxx would be assuming a critical job during a critical time as the nation’s transportation system is suffering from underinvestment due to Washington’s obsession with austerity.
“We need leadership from this administration on how to fund the nation’s long-term, multi-modal transportation operating and infrastructure needs,” Wytkind said. “Report after report concludes that a lack of new investments in transportation is harming our economy and competitiveness, and slowing job creation. We also hope the next transportation secretary will take on some pressing and overdue transportation safety reform initiatives.”
“The nation’s state departments of transportation – the owners and operators of the national highway system and the leaders in innovative transportation solutions – look forward to working with Mayor Foxx on the important transportation issues facing the nation and on identifying a long-term sustainable transportation funding source,” said Bud Wright, AASHTO executive director.
Foxx, the mayor of Charlotte, N.C., is the first black nominee among the president’s picks for open spots in his second term Cabinet. The president had faced questions, including from the Congressional Black Caucus, about a lack of diversity in his first round of nominations after winning re-election.
Obama said that as a mayor, Foxx knows how to use infrastructure spending to create jobs and boost economic growth. The White House cited Foxx’s work on Charlotte’s electric tram service, an expansion of a light rail system and the opening of a third runway at the city’s airport as experience that qualifies him for the Cabinet post.
“Charlotte made one of the largest investments in transportation,” Obama said during a nomination ceremony in the East Room of the White House. “All of that has not only helped create new jobs, it’s helped Charlotte become more attractive to business.”
Foxx, 41, has served as Charlotte’s mayor since 2009. He bolstered his national profile last year when his city hosted the Democratic Party’s national convention.
Among those in the audience for the East Room ceremony was Foxx’s grandmother, who worked in the White House during the Truman administration.
If confirmed by the Senate, Foxx will take over the Transportation Department from outgoing Secretary Ray LaHood, a rare Republican serving in a Democratic administration. In a nod to his predecessor, Foxx said, “there is no such thing as a Democratic or Republican road, bridge, port airfield or rail system. We must work together across party lines to enhance this nation’s infrastructure.”
The Transportation Department has been at the center of Washington’s most recent fight over the so-called sequester cuts. The automatic cuts resulted in furloughs for air traffic controllers that spurred delays at many airports, angering both lawmakers and the public.
Congress reached a deal last week to provide the Transportation Department flexibility that allowed it to end the air traffic controller furloughs
Obama is also close to announcing his picks for two other Cabinet-level posts. Longtime Obama fundraiser and hotel heiress Penny Pritzker is the leading candidate to run the Commerce Department, and White House international economic adviser Michael Froman is the top choice to be the next U.S. Trade Representative.