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LaHood continues his word games; for a ‘while’ he’s still at DOT

Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, shown here with President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, during the Jan. 21 Inaugural Parade, is hanging around the DOT for a “while” until his successor is named.

By LYNDON FINNEY
The Trucker Staff

3/12/2013

A NEWS ANALYSIS

WASHINGTON — Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood is at it again.

He’s playing those word games, this time with respect to his tenure as Secretary of Transportation.

You may recall a couple of years ago the furor around the first cross-border demonstration project with Mexico.

Congress, led by former Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., and Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., managed to slip an amendment into a 2009 appropriations bill cutting off funds for the project, and when President Barack Obama — who had little choice but to sign the bill because the appropriations were what would keep the government running — laid down his signature on paper, the Mexican trucks stopped traveling in the U.S. outside the commercial trade zone.

Mexico retaliated with some rather harsh tariffs, and several lawmakers — especially those from states heavily hit by the tariffs — started clamoring for a new cross-border program.

So, Obama tasked the Department of Transportation with developing a second cross-border pilot program.

On May 21, 2009, LaHood told the National Press Club he was “ready” to take to Congress the new pilot project proposal he’d sent the White House.

Days went by, nothing.

Around the first of March 2010, Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., whose state really got clobbered by the tariffs, got after LaHood during a Senate hearing, with LaHood finally telling the senator that the DOT was “very near” a proposal.

Days went by, still nothing.

In May, during a hearing before the same committee, Murray again asked about the proposal.

The administration was “very close” to having a proposal and would be announcing it “very soon,” LaHood told Murray.

Days went by, nothing.

In fact, weeks and months went by before LaHood quietly slipped off to Mexico and signed an accord with Mexican officials that brought about the second cross-border project, which to date has not been successful.

LaHood’s latest round with the dictionary began last year when he announced he would not be a member of the Cabinet during Obama’s second administration.

He appeared to have second thoughts about that decision, and during the inaugural activities was quoted as saying he would be sticking around for a “while.”

One week later, he defined a “while” as until a successor had been found.

So now a “while” is six weeks past, heading into seven, and when we called the White House to see if the end of a “while” might be “very close” and if an announcement about LaHood’s replacement would be made “very soon,” an administration spokesman said he had no “personnel” announcement to make.

So who knows when we’ll find out who will be the next transportation secretary.

When the story broke that LaHood was definitely leaving, several names were mentioned, among them National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Deborah Hersman.

The possibility of Hersman taking the DOT job was also mentioned Monday in The Washington Post, where Al Kamen, a columnist on the paper’s national staff, wrote in his column “In the Loop” that Hersman “is among the names most mentioned.”

From where we sit, we certainly hope Kamen is in the loop and that a “while” will “soon” be over.

The Trucker staff can be reached to comment on this article at editor@thetrucker.com.

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