For affable LaHood, Transportation chief will be last public job

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood sees his post in the Obama administration as his last job in public office, and he likely will stay for only one term, he told the Chicago Tribune on Thursday.

LaHood spoke at the National Press Club as part of the administration's efforts to push Congress to pass President Obama's jobs bill, which failed to garner enough votes to block a filibuster earlier this week. Obama's jobs bill includes a $50 billion request for immediate infrastructure spending and $10 billion for an infrastructure bank. Neither of those ideas is likely to get very far in Congress, because Republicans are opposed to new spending in general and see the infrastructure-bank proposal as an unnecessary bureaucracy.

All this may be too much for LaHood, a moderate Republican who served in the House from 1994 until 2008. In Congress, he had a knack for running the floor smoothly and efficiently and was popular among journalists for his straight talk about House operations. As Transportation secretary, LaHood has taken the same no-nonsense approach toward an array of public-policy issues. He was hauled up before Congress in 2010 to answer questions about faulty brakes in some Toyota cars. In a gaffe, he first said that Toyota drivers shouldn't use their cars, but he backed away from those comments relatively quickly.

LaHood has also used his bully pulpit to promote safe-driving campaigns that warn drivers to avoid using smartphones to text or e-mail while on the road. That campaign has met with kudos from the industry and safety advocates alike.

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