Obama Sends Infrastructure Message With Transportation Pick

Monday, 29 Apr 2013 04:05 PM

By David Yonkman, Washington Correspondent

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President Barack Obama sent a message that the White House will continue its attempts to re-build and expand America’s infrastructure with the nomination of Charlotte, N.C., Mayor Anthony Foxx as his new transportation secretary.

“We need to modernize the infrastructure that powers our economy,” said Obama, flanked by Foxx and outgoing Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood on Monday in an East Room ceremony.

During Foxx’s term as mayor, Charlotte has broken ground on several transportation projects, including the Charlotte Streetcar Project to bring modern electric-tram service to the city, as well as a third parallel runway at Charlotte/Douglas International Airport.

“We need more high-speed rail, and Internet, and high-tech schools, and self-healing power grids, and bridges, and tunnels, and ports that help us ship products all around the world stamped with three proud words: Made in America,” Obama said. “That’s how we’re going to attract more businesses. That’s how we’re going to create more jobs.”

Obama’s 2009 stimulus package included billions for infrastructure projects aimed at creating jobs at the height of the recession. Later in a 2011 interview, Obama acknowledged the projects didn’t live up to expectations, saying “shovel-ready was not as shovel ready as we expected.”

But House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Bill Shuster of Pennsylvania met the nomination with lukewarm praise.

“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,” Shuster said in a statement. “Once he has been confirmed by the Senate, I look forward to working with Mayor Foxx to achieve these goals for our country.”

The pick should also assuage liberal criticism in Congress about the lack of diversity in Obama’s cabinet.

Foxx is Obama's first black nominee among the new Cabinet members appointed for his second term. Attorney General Eric Holder currently is the only African American now leading a Cabinet department

Earlier this month, Democratic Rep. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi criticized Obama for failing to pick any blacks among his early picks for his second-term cabinet, according to USA Today.

“Four months into his second term, we look to the president’s Cabinet appointments only to find that he has once again overlooked his most loyal constituency,” Thompson said while delivering the Congressional Black Caucus’ weekly radio address.

Foxx’s nomination could be the first of several announced this week by the White House. Chicago businesswoman and longtime Obama backer Penny Pritzker is reportedly in line for Commerce Secretary and the president is close to naming White House deputy national security adviser Mike Froman to be the next U.S. Trade Representative.

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