WASHINGTON - Rep. Ray LaHood, R-Ill., has been asked to be Transportation secretary for the Obama administration, a Republican source said today.
A spokesman for the Obama transition team declined to comment and LaHood's office did not immediately return phone calls.
The nomination of LaHood would fulfill Obama's promise to name a Republican to his cabinet, tapping an ideological moderate who has a well-established reputation for bipartisanship and efforts to encourage civil discourse in Congress. Though Obama has asked President Bush's secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, to remain in the cabinet, Gates is a registered independent.
LaHood, a long-time staff aide to the affable then-House Minority Leader Bob Michel, R-Ill., who took his boss's seat when Michel retired, was elected in 1994 along with a tide of Republicans led by Newt Gingrich. But he did not follow the same highly partisan path that characterized the class elected with him.
On the floor of the House, Emanuel recently offered his own accolade to LaHood, who plans to retire from Congress at age 63 at the end of the current session.
If someone were to ask the nation's founders what kind of person should serve in Congress, "what they had in their mind's eye, that person would be Ray LaHood,'' Emanuel said. He called LaHood a man who ``while firm in his principles, was very flexible about his opinions."
LaHood also has long been a favorite of reporters covering the Capitol for his willingness to say on-the-record what other members of Congress will only whisper anonymously.
He is a member of the powerful House Appropriations Committee, which determines spending on projects around the country, and a former member of the House Transportation Committee.
A product of Peoria's large Lebanese-American community, LaHood is one of the few Arab-American members of Congress.