U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, one of two Republicans to serve in President Barack Obama’s cabinet, said he is stepping down.
LaHood, 67, announced his plan in a meeting with top staff at the Transportation Department’s headquarters in Washington, saying he’ll stay for a few months until a successor is confirmed by the U.S. Senate.
“As I look back on the past four years, I am proud of what we have accomplished together in so many important areas,” LaHood said today in an e-mailed statement.
The former Illinois representative’s future had been unclear as Obama assembles other cabinet members for his second term. LaHood said at a Jan. 21 party following Obama’s inauguration that he would be “sticking around for a while,” without specifying how long.
During his tenure, LaHood made distracted driving a centerpiece issue. He brought attention to dangers caused by texting and driving while shying away in recent years from criticizing infotainment systems installed in cars.
LaHood has been Obama’s principal advocate for increased spending on highways, bridges and transport facilities Obama says are needed to heal the U.S. economy. Obama’s efforts to expand U.S. high-speed passenger rail service has been stalled by Congress’s refusal to keep paying for it.
LaHood served seven terms as a U.S. representative from Peoria, Illinois, and from 2005 through 2009 joined Obama, then a U.S. senator, in the state’s congressional delegation. He is the only Republican in Obama’s cabinet; former Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel would be the second if confirmed as defense secretary. LaHood joined then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates as two Republicans in Obama’s first-term cabinet.