National Press Club

LaHood leaves cabinet with plea for ending gridlock

June 27, 2013 | By John Hughes | JHughes5@bloomberg.net

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood called on Congress to take action to fix America's crumbling infrastructure in a news conference Thursday, June 27 at the National Press Club.

"Side shows and name calling'' in Congress are blocking action on America's greatest needs, LaHood said in remarks just hours before the Senate confirmed his successor, Anthony Foxx. ``We can overcome this,'' LaHood said. ``We've done it before.''

LaHood, who served 14 years in the House of Representatives seat previously held by President Abraham Lincoln, Senate Minority Leader Everett Dirksen and House Minority Leader Bob Michel, attributed gridlock in Congress to a small group who came to Washington ``to do nothing.'' He faulted ``constant partisan debate'' and said too many lawmakers fail to understand ``compromise is not a bad word, it's a way to success.''

Congress needs leaders who will make honest judgments, be prudent, act with civility and take responsibility for actions, he said. It also needs people who will listen, he said.

Chances now ``are not good'' the House will enact legislation to build highways and fix infrastructure, while prospects are ``pretty good'' in the Senate, he said.

``We have a lot of aging roads and aging bridges,'' LaHood said. ``You can only duck it for so long.''

He declined to answer a question as to whether the U.S. should pay for highway construction with a vehicle-miles-traveled tax rather than a gasoline levy, because ``that will be your headline.''

LaHood predicted all Americans will own a hybrid-type car by 2025 and that a ``good part'' of the U.S. will be connected by high-speed rail within 25 years. ``High-speed rail is coming to America,'' LaHood said. ``We're not going back.''

LaHood, 67, who is concluding four-and-a-half years as the nation's 16th transportation secretary, said he would not retire, but plans to serve on non-profit boards, work on transportation safety and split his time between Washington and his home in Peoria, Ill. LaHood said he's taking July and August off and will ``hope the phone rings.''