Responding to a question about why it was so difficult to get big
infrastructure projects built right now, LaHood told a
transportation conference that "some people don't want Obama to be
"A big percentage of the Republicans that were
elected this time came here to do zero, and that's what they've
done," he said. Those lawmakers, he said, have obstructed other
people who are trying to get things done.
LaHood's remarks "are ironic considering the speaker had a good
conversation with the president yesterday about infrastructure,"
Kevin Smith, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio,
Boehner and the president talked about jobs legislation in a
10-minute phone call Thursday. Boehner told Obama that Republicans
are willing to address new transportation and infrastructure
spending but "in a fiscally responsible way."
LaHood has strong Republican credentials. He was a GOP
congressman from Illinois for 14 years until he retired in 2008.
Before that, he was a top aide to House Republican leader Bob Michel
of Illinois. During his tenure in Congress, LaHood worked closely
with GOP House speakers, particularly Dennis Hastert of Illinois.
"Here we are almost 12 months from the election, and there are
some people in Congress -- look there are probably 40 people, 40
Republicans -- elected to the House to come here to do nothing,"
LaHood said. "That's why they felt they were elected."
LaHood was apparently referring to tea party-aligned Republicans
who are reluctant to compromise on their goal of reducing the size
and power of the federal government.
"When I was elected in '94 we had a very reform-minded class, 82
new people, but they came here to do something, to solve problems,"
he said. "Almost always in the past when people have run for
Congress, they ran for Congress on the opportunity to help solve the
problems of America."
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LaHood has been meeting with GOP lawmakers, trying to generate
support for Obama's $447 billion jobs package, which Senate
Republicans killed in a Tuesday night vote. House Republicans have
introduced their own jobs plan, which doesn't include any of Obama's
Despite what he calls GOP obstruction, LaHood predicted Congress
will pass a major transportation spending bill before next year's
"They know people are hurting and they know their popularity in
their districts is not too good right now," he said. "You can't put
people back to work with the same old slogans about cutting taxes
and tax breaks for small businesses. That only goes so far."
By JOAN LOWY]
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