Political Headlines January 29, 2013: Ray LaHood Stepping Down as Transportation Secretary





Ray LaHood Stepping Down as Transportation Secretary


Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced on Tuesday that he will not be sticking around for President Obama’s second term.

In a letter to Department of Transportation employees, LaHood said he has informed the president of his decision and that he will stay at his post until a successor is confirmed.

Obama later issued a statement thanking LaHood “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.”…READ MORE

Here is LaHood’s full letter to DOT employees:

“I have let President Obama know that I will not serve a second term as Secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation. 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.

As I look back on the past four years, I am proud of what we have accomplished together in so many important areas. But what I am most proud of is the DOT team. You exemplify the best of public service, and I truly appreciate all that you have done to make America better, to make your communities better, and to make DOT better.

Our achievements are significant. We have put safety front and center with the Distracted Driving Initiative and a rule to combat pilot fatigue that was decades in the making. We have made great progress in improving the safety of our transit systems, pipelines, and highways, and in reducing roadway fatalities to historic lows. We have strengthened consumer protections with new regulations on buses, trucks, and airlines.

We helped jumpstart the economy and put our fellow Americans back to work with $48 billion in transportation funding from the American Recovery and Investment Act of 2009, and awarded over $2.7 billion in TIGER grants to 130 transportation projects across the Nation. We have made unprecedented investments in our nation’s ports. And we have put aviation on a sounder footing with the FAA reauthorization, and secured funding in the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act to help States build and repair their roads, bridges and transit systems.

And to further secure our future, we have taken transportation into the 21st century with CAFE Standards, NextGen, and our investments in passenger and High-Speed Rail. What’s more, we have provided the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy with the funding and leadership it needs to prepare a new generation of midshipmen to meet our country’s rapidly-evolving defense and maritime transportation needs.

Closer to home, we also have made great strides. In December, the DOT was recognized as the most improved agency in the entire Federal government in the 2012 “Best Places to Work” rankings published by the Partnership of Public Service. Even more impressive, DOT was ranked 9th out of the 19 largest agencies in the government.

Each of these remarkable accomplishments is a tribute your hard work, creativity, commitment to excellence, and most of all, your dedication to our country. DOT is fortunate to have such an extraordinary group of public servants. I look forward to continuing to work with all of you as the selection and confirmation process of the next transportation secretary moves forward. Now is not the time to let up – we still have a number of critical safety goals to accomplish and still more work to do on the implementation of MAP-21. 

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.

Thank you, and God bless you.”


Full Text August 3, 2011: President Obama’s Remarks on Congress FAA — Federal Aviation Administration Impasse



Secretary Ray LaHood: Senate Approves FAA Extension; Tens of Thousands Can Go Back to Work

Source: WH, 8-5-11

I am thrilled this morning that the Senate has approved an FAA bill.  It is a tremendous victory for American workers everywhere.

I’m thrilled for our dedicated FAA employees who will be able to go back to work on Monday.  And I’m thrilled for the tens of thousands of hardworking workers who can go back to airport construction sites around the country.

As a matter of fairness, we will also do everything we can to get Congress to provide our furloughed employees with the back pay they deserve.

This was really no time to stop work on so many critical airport improvement projects — right in the middle of the construction season. But now, these good workers can get back on the job Monday doing the work they want to do, earning a good wage, and taking care of their families. And I am very, very happy for them.

I want to thank President Obama for his attention to this situation.  Even during the days of intense debt and deficit discussions, he insisted to me, “Take care of our employees. Take care of the construction workers. Figure this out.  Get it done.”

So that’s what we did.  We worked with Congress day and night to figure out a way to get these people back on the job.  And, thanks to the leadership of Senators Reid, Rockefeller, Hutchison and Baucus, we got it done.

Now, before we get too carried away, let’s remember that this extension only lasts until September 16; there’s still work to do so we can get a long term FAA bill.

But I’m optimistic that, with so many jobs on the line in these tough economic times, Congress can work out its differences.  President Obama really put his finger on it when he said, “We can’t afford to let politics in Washington hamper our recovery.”

From construction workers to our dedicated FAA employees, they will all have the security of knowing they are going to go back to work and will get a paycheck — and that’s what we’ve been fighting for.

We have the best aviation system in the world, and we intend to keep it that way.

Ray LaHood is the Secretary of Transportation.

The President Tells Congress: Don’t Put the Livelihoods of Thousands of People at Risk

Source: WH, 8-3-11

Read the Transcript  |  Download Video: mp4 (55MB) | mp3 (5MB)


Remarks by the President before Cabinet Meeting

Cabinet Room

2:05 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, obviously, this has been an eventful last few days.  As I have said yesterday, we have now averted what could have been a disastrous blow to the economy.  And we have identified on the front end over a trillion dollars in spending reductions that can be done sensibly and safely without affecting core programs.  And we now have a committee process in Congress that is charged with finding additional savings.  It’s going to be challenging work, and I’m encouraging Congress to take it with the utmost seriousness.

In the meantime, the American people have been continuing to worry about the underlying state of the economy, about jobs, about their wages, about reduced hours, about fewer customers.  The economy is still weakened, partly because of some things we couldn’t control, like the Japanese earthquake and the situation in the Europe, as well as the Arab Spring and its effect on the oil crisis.  Unfortunately, the debt ceiling crisis over the last month, I think, has had an unnecessary negative impact on the economy here, as well.

So I’m meeting with my Cabinet here to make sure that, even as they have been throughout these last several weeks, they are redoubling their efforts to focus on what matters most to the American people, and that is, how are we going to put people back to work; how are we going to raise their wages; increase their security; how are we going to make sure that they recover fully, as families and as communities, from the worst recession we’ve had since the Great Depression.

A good example of how undone work here in Washington can have an adverse impact on that economy is what’s going on with the Federal Aviation Administration.  And I’m going to be hearing from Ray LaHood about the situation that is looming as a consequence of Congress not acting.  Some of you may be aware of the fact that the FAA routinely gets its authorities extended through Congress; it’s happened 20 times since 2007.  This time, Congress has decided to play some politics with it.  And as a consequence, they left town without getting this extension done.

Here is what this means — thousands of FAA workers being furloughed, including safety inspectors.  It also means projects all across the country involving tens of thousands of construction workers being suspended, because Congress didn’t get its work done.  And that means folks who are on construction sites, doing work and bringing home a paycheck, now potentially find themselves going home without one, and important projects all across the country are left undone.

Here’s what also happens.  It turns out that this extension gives the authority to collect fees from airlines.  The airlines are still collecting these fees because it’s priced into their tickets, but they’re not turning them over to the federal government, and the federal government stands to lose $200 million a week.  That would be a billion dollars at a time when we’re worrying about how we pay for everything from education to Head Start.  And we don’t anticipate it’s going to be easy to get that money back.  Even though the airlines are collecting it, they’re keeping it.

So this is a lose-lose-lose situation that can be easily solved if Congress gets back into town and does its job.  And they don’t even have to come back into town.  The House and the Senate could, through a procedural agreement, basically do this through unanimous consent.  And they can have the fights that they want to have when they get back.  Don’t put the livelihoods of thousands of people at risk. Don’t put projects at risk.  And don’t let a billion dollars, at a time when we’re scrambling for every dollar we can, get left on the table because Congress did not act.

So I’m urging the House and the Senate to take care of this.  This is an example of a self-inflicted wound that is unnecessary.  And my expectation and I think the American people’s expectation is, is that this gets resolved before the end of this week.

All right?  Thank you very much, everybody.

Q    Mr. President, anything that you can do, sir?  Can you intervene?  Is there anything you can do?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I am — I have made calls to key leaders, and I am urging them to get this done.  But this is, as I said, not the kind of situation that is complicated.  All they have to do is do what they’ve done 20 times since 2007.  There’s not a big issue in terms of drafting legislation or arguing about the details of policy.  Just do what they’ve done in the past to make sure that these folks are on the job, including looking after the safety of our airlines.

All right?  Thank you very much.

Q    Are you ready for 5-0, Mr. President?

THE PRESIDENT:  I’m going to get advice from some around the table — (laughter) — about how to handle this milestone.  (Laughter.)  All right?

END  2:11 P.M. EDT

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