Michael Bitzer: Nomination in hand, Foxx faces GOP delay machine

  • Posted: Wednesday, May 1, 2013 12:12 a.m.
Michael Bitzer
Michael Bitzer

This is an excerpt from “The Party Line” political blog at www.wfae.org, written by Dr. Michael Bitzer, professor of political science and history at Catawba College.

It was the worst-kept secret in Charlotte politics. Anthony Foxx’s nomination as the 17th U.S. Secretary of Transportation is reality.

Coming a day before his 42nd birthday, Mayor Foxx’s rise has been calculated since his first run to lead the Charlotte back in 2009, followed by overseeing a fairly successful Democratic National Convention.

Foxx will be charged with overseeing a federal agency with 55,000 employees and has one of the greatest impacts on everyday citizens’ lives in the nation.

From the cars and tractor trailers on the roads (with the Federal Highway Administration), the rails (Federal Railroad Administration), the air (Federal Aviation Administration), the waterways (Maritime Administration) to even pipelines (Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration), the DOT has a significant influence over many daily activities that most Americans may take for granted.

But with the recent flare-ups, ranging from the governance of one of the nation’s busiest airports to disagreements over light rail and streetcars to interstate highway expansion (or lack thereof), the decisions coming out of the Transportation Department may have a significant impact on not just Charlotte but potentially the entire state.

At the heart of these flare-ups have been the frosty relations between Charlotte officials and the Capital City. But now that dynamic, pending approval by the U.S. Senate, make shift dramatically into a new kind of awkwardness, this time from D.C. to Raleigh.

Of course, the halcyon days of federal largesse when it comes to transportation projects are most likely gone. President Obama’s budget allocation for transportation totals $104 billion — a lot of money, mind you, but only 2.8 percent of the entire $3.78 trillion overall budget.

And it’s most likely not going to be the full $104 billion when Congress gets done with its budget, if it ever does.

Of course, just because President Obama has nominated Mayor Foxx to serve in his cabinet does not automatically put him into the administration.

The U.S. Senate’s Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation will hold confirmation hearings, and if the nominees in such areas as Labor, Interior and the CIA are any indication, Mayor Foxx may want to hold on packing up his Government Center office quite yet.

With the dysfunctional polarization in the U.S. Congress and specifically in the upper chamber, the likelihood is that Foxx will face the GOP delay machine, usually due to either petty politics or ideological fervor.

And this doesn’t include the fun times the future secretary will have with the lower chamber in getting budget monies.

If Mayor Foxx believed he had headaches from his own party and City Council, it might be wise to pack a lot of migraine medicine for his ride up to being secretary.

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