Once colleagues in Congress, Rep. John Mica and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood have the sort of genial rapport that contrasts sharply with what seemed to observers a chilly relationship between the DOT and the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee under James L. Oberstar.
Mica paused during a speech last month to welcome the just-arriving LaHood, and led a round of applause for the DOT chief. When Mica said he hopes to “do double what the administration asked” in a multiyear bill, LaHood applauded, alone but loudly. Then Mica added the words “in total value.”
But, Mica said, “I will work with the man that’s clapping, and others. And we do have a good working relationship, and I think we can get the job done.”
That was when Florida Gov. Rick Scott was killing the DOT’s showcase high-speed rail project, for which LaHood had set aside $2.4 billion in federal grants. Mica had already criticized Scott’s action, and told AASHTO: “Poor Ray and I — we’re just trying to provide adult supervision. Sometimes it’s difficult, but it will all work out.”
LaHood, a longtime Republican House member, salutes the chairman in return. “We’re going to have a lot of fun together” working on transport policy, he said.
“John and I are friends,” LaHood said, “and we share the same values when it comes to transportation. We share the same values about doing a significant transportation bill. You know, he and I really don’t disagree on anything. Our visions are the same for transportation — let’s put people to work. This is a jobs bill. Really, I don’t think I could ask for anyone better to be able to work with.”
While they have a good repartee in public, “it’s even better in private,” LaHood said. “We have coffee together … I talk to him (Mica) on a very regular basis. He’s been over to the department; I’ve been over to the Capitol. We have a wonderful relationship.”
Contact John D. Boyd at email@example.com.