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Transportation nominee Foxx to appear at Senate committee May 22

Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx, President Barack Obama’s U.S. transportation secretary nominee, will appear before a Senate committee May 22 to be questioned about his qualifications and views on transportation policy.

The U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation will hold a nomination hearing for Foxx at 2:30 p.m., Chairman Jay Rockefeller announced Wednesday.

At a later date, the committee will vote on whether to recommend Foxx for the Cabinet position. If the city’s Democratic mayor is endorsed by the committee, the full Senate would later vote on whether to confirm him, possibly in June.

Foxx has not spoken publicly about the nomination since a White House appearance in late April. He is believed to be preparing for the hearing, and he missed Monday and Wednesday’s City Council meetings to be in Washington D.C.

When Obama nominated him April 29, Foxx said in the White House East Room that “there is no such thing as a Democratic or Republican road, bridge, port, airfield or rail system. We must work together across party lines to enhance this nation’s infrastructure.”

The president praised Foxx, who has been mayor since 2009.

“The city has managed to turn things around,” the president said. “The economy is growing. There are more jobs, more opportunity. And if you ask Anthony how that happened, he’ll tell you that one of the reasons is that Charlotte made one of the largest investments in transportation in the city’s history.”

Foxx is most passionate about transit and the role it can play in reducing sprawl and helping urban areas become more livable. He has pushed for the extension of the city’s light-rail line to UNC Charlotte and has been a tireless advocate for building a streetcar through central Charlotte.

The streetcar project – now called the CityLynx Gold Line – has been stalled by political bickering for a year as council members argue over whether it should be build with property taxes.

City Manager Ron Carlee breathed new life into the project Monday when he presented a plan that would pay for the streetcar without using property tax dollars by applying for a $63 million federal grant.

Foxx’s nomination has not yet drawn significant opposition from the GOP Senate minority. But it’s possible the mayor could be asked about the fight over whether the city or an independent authority controls Charlotte Douglas International Airport, which is one of the nation’s busiest airports. Foxx supports keeping the airport under city control; opponents have said an authority should run the airport to keep it free from political interference.

After Foxx was chosen, the Wall Street Journal’s editorial page criticized his nomination, citing the struggle over who controls the airport. Since that time, Carlee has worked to slow down a bill being considered by the N.C. General Assembly to take the airport away from the city.

Foxx would replace Ray LaHood, a Republican who was an Illinois congressman before being nominated by the president at the start of his first term.

Some recent secretaries have had more transportation experience than Foxx before being nominated. But two other mayors were tapped by Democratic presidents for the job: Federico Peña, who was the first transportation secretary under President Bill Clinton, had been mayor of Denver. Neil Goldschmidt was mayor of Portland, Ore., when Jimmy Carter tapped him for transportation secretary in 1979.

The committee has 13 Democrats and 11 Republicans. Among the prominent Democrats on the committee include Sens. Barbara Boxer of California and Bill Nelson of Florida. GOP members include Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida and Ted Cruz, a first-term senator from Texas.

Harrison: 704-358-5160
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