Muckraker: Grist on Politics

Barack Obama announced four new members of his team in a press conference Friday afternoon, including Rep. Ray LaHood (R-Ill.) for secretary of transportation and Rep. Hilda Solis for secretary of labor.

Solis, Obama said, would be a leader in creating green-collar jobs. “We’re also going to have to train our workers to be prepared for these jobs of the future,” said Obama. “If we’re going to build a smart grid, for example … We have a shortage right now of workers who could do all that work. We’re going to have to create a pipeline through the Department of Labor.”

In her brief remarks, Solis said she wanted to put Americans to work overhauling the nation’s energy infrastructure. “These are jobs that will supply good jobs for all working families,” said Solis.

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LaHood, Obama said, would bring experience and bipartisanship to his work on the nation’s transportation infrastructure.

“Few understand our infrastructure challenge better than the outstanding public servant I am asking to lead the Department of Transportation,” said Obama. “As a congressman from Illinois, Ray served six years on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, leading efforts to modernize our aviation system by renewing our aging airports and ensuring that air traffic controllers were using cutting edge technology. Throughout his career, Ray has fought to improve mass transit and invest in our highways. But he has not only helped rebuild our landscape, he has helped beautify it by creating opportunities for bikers and runners to enjoy our great outdoors.

“When I began this appointment process, I said I was committed to finding the best person for the job, regardless of party,” Obama continued. “Ray’s appointment reflects that bipartisan spirit — a spirit we need to reclaim in this country to make progress for the American people.”

In his remarks, LaHood said, “President Obama and I share the same philosophy on infrastructure … His agenda for transportation is my agenda for transportation. We have a task before us to rebuild America.” LaHood called for the United States to “continue to be a leader” and to make improvements in Amtrak, mass transit, and light rail.

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Obama emphasized that both LaHood and Solis have important roles to play in his administration’s economic and energy policy.

“Our economy boomed in the 20th century when President Eisenhower remade the American landscape by building the interstate highway system. Now we need to remake our transportation system for the 21st century,” he said. “Doing so will not only help us meet our energy challenge by building more efficient cars, buses, and subways or make Americans safer by rebuilding our crumbling roads and bridges — it will create millions of new jobs in the process.”