Source: Obama picks Rep. LaHood for transportation
By NEDRA PICKLER, Associated Press Writer Nedra Pickler, Associated Press Writer – 28 mins ago
CHICAGO – President-elect Barack Obama intends to name GOP Rep. Ray LaHood of Illinois as his transportation secretary, a Democratic official said Wednesday, adding a second Republican to his Cabinet-in-the-making.
The official disclosed the selection of LaHood after the president-elect announced former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack as agriculture secretary and Colorado Sen. Ken Salazar of Colorado to head the Interior Department.
LaHood, 63, is stepping down from his congressional seat after 14 years in Congress from the area around Peoria.
He has been at the forefront of efforts to make the floor of the House less partisan. Respected for his ability to preside, he was in the chair during most of President Bill Clinton's impeachment a decade ago.
His selection was applauded by the Laborers' International Union of North America, with General President Terry O'Sullivan saying the Republican "has been a friend to our union when it comes to construction and transportation issues."
The official who disclosed LaHood's selection as transportation secretary did so on condition of anonymity because the Obama team did not authorize the disclosure.
LaHood, Vilsack and Salazar must receive Senate confirmation before taking their posts.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates, whom Obama asked to remain in office, is the other Republican tapped so far for the incoming Cabinet.
The selections came as Obama worked on completing his Cabinet, possibly in advance of a year-end holiday vacation in Hawaii with his family.
He has yet to announce choices for the Labor Department, senior intelligence positions or the Office of U.S. Trade Representative. Rep. Xavier Becerra, D-Calif., had been penciled in as trade representative, but he announced on Tuesday he intends to remain in the House.
In addition, numerous sub-Cabinet posts remain unfilled.
Knowledgeable officials say Dr. Gail Rosseau, a Chicago neurosurgeon, is among the final contenders to become surgeon general. These officials spoke on condition of anonymity, saying they were not authorized to discuss the appointment.
Obama introduced Vilsack and Salazar at a now-familiar ritual, a news conference where the president-elect makes his announcement, then takes a few questions from reporters.
Asked for the second day about a political scandal roiling his home state of Illinois, he said, "It's a little bit frustrating" to not talk in detail about the investigation into charges that Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich schemed to name Obama's replacement in the U.S. Senate based on who offered the best political or financial deal. Blagojevich was arrested last week by the FBI.
Neither Obama nor anyone on his team has been accused of any wrongdoing in the probe. But the president-elect has directed transition aides to detail who on his side had contact, and what kind, with Blagojevich or his staff.
"There's been a lot of speculation in the press that I would love to correct immediately," Obama said in response to a question. He said his team is "abiding by the request of the U.S. attorney" to not release the results of the internal investigation, already compiled, until next week. "It's not going to be that long," Obama said.
For the Agriculture and Interior departments — which oversee federal farming and lands policies — Obama said his approach will be to "serve not big agribusiness or Washington influence peddlers but family farmers and the American people."
Vilsack is be the fourth former presidential rival to join Obama's administration. Others include Vice President-elect Joe Biden, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, who has been tapped for secretary of state, and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, selected to head the Commerce Department.
Salazar was elected to the Senate in 2004, the same year as Obama.
His appointment means Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter will name a successor to serve until the 2010 elections. Several Democrats pointed to Rep. John Salazar, the senator's brother, as a leading possibility to take the seat.
Salazar's office issued a statement this week praising his brother's selection but making no mention of the possibility of succeeding him in the Senate.
On the Net:
Obama transition: http://www.change.gov