Could LaHood Stick Around to Oversee the Sequester Crisis?

It’s been almost a month since Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced his resignation — and longer than that since he tipped off the president that he was planning his exit — but no replacement has been named yet. They haven’t named an acting secretary and let him go, as happened in the Labor Department when Hilda Solis left. Not only that, but buzz about who might move into the secretary’s office has actually quieted. It’s as if the administration is hoping that if it just doesn’t bring it up, LaHood will simply stay.

Just when we thought we were done with "will he stay or will he go" speculation, buzz surfaces about Ray LaHood staying on for just a little longer. Photo: Tanya Snyder

And that might actually happen. With LaHood managing the storm around the sequester not just for DOT but for the whole executive branch, his senioritis seems to be in check. And more and more people are speculating that it might be a good idea for him to stick around for a little while to help the department through the massive cuts it will likely have to start making come Friday: a $1 billion cut from its core programs, with $600 million of it coming out of the FAA’s hide, and another $600 million in Hurricane Sandy relief.

Politico reporters have been asking around on Capitol Hill, and they seem to be finding broad agreement that LaHood should stick around to ride out the storm with DOT. Commerce Committee Chair Jay Rockefeller said the “obvious answer” was that it would be great to have LaHood stay on, with the understanding that it couldn’t just drag out forever.

Now two Republicans — House Transportation Chair Bill Shuster and Rockefeller’s Republican counterpart on the Commerce Committee, John Thune — are singing the same tune. “Bringing somebody from the outside makes it difficult,” Shuster told Politico. “We’re in a situation where we need somebody who has the experience and can go in there and adjust the accounts so that it’s safe to fly.”

Thune was more cynical. “Thune said that if the administration wants to keep using LaHood as Republican ’cover’ for President Barack Obama’s policies, they’ll need to keep him around,” wrote Politico’s Burgess Everett and Adam Snider.

No word on what LaHood himself thinks of the idea of staying to oversee the chaotic budget cuts.