President Obama’s sole Republican Cabinet member of his first administration is moving on.
“I have let President Obama know that I will not serve a second term as Secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation,” Ray LaHood said in a message to Department of Transportation employees today. “It has been an honor and a privilege to lead the Department, and I am grateful to President Obama for giving me such an extraordinary opportunity. I plan to stay on until my successor is confirmed to ensure a smooth transition for the Department and all the important work we still have to do.”
LaHood noted various accomplishments from putting “fellow Americans back to work with $48 billion in transportation funding from the American Recovery and Investment Act of 2009″ to making “great progress in improving the safety of our transit systems, pipelines, and highways, and in reducing roadway fatalities to historic lows.”
“I’ve told President Obama, and I’ve told many of you, that this is the best job I’ve ever had. I’m grateful to have the opportunity to work with all of you and I’m confident that DOT will continue to achieve great things in the future,” he said.
Obama issued a statement thanking LaHood, a 14-year member of the House from Illinois before tapped by the newly elected Obama in 2009, “for his dedication, his hard work, and his years of service to the American people – including the outstanding work he’s done over the last four years as Secretary of Transportation.”
“I also want to thank Ray for his friendship,” the president added. “Years ago, we were drawn together by a shared belief that those of us in public service owe an allegiance not to party or faction, but to the people we were elected to represent. And Ray has never wavered in that belief.”
“Every American who travels by air, rail or highway can thank Ray for his commitment to making our entire transportation system safer and stronger.”
Obama’s next potential Republican Cabinet member, former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.), whose confirmation hearing is Thursday before the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Several members of the committee have already expressed opposition to Hagel. Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) said immediately after Obama’s announcement of the nomination early this month that he’d be a “no” vote.
“Given Chuck Hagel’s statements and actions on a nuclear Iran, Hamas, and Hezbollah, I think his confirmation would send exactly the wrong message to our allies and enemies alike,” Vitter said. “Israel, our strongest ally in the region, is dealing with a lot of threat and uncertainty right now; Hagel would make that even worse.”