Minnesota Democrats recommend Oberstar for transportation chief

WASHINGTON – Minnesota’s two Democratic Senators and five DFL U.S. House members are lobbying President Barack Obama to name former U.S. Rep. Jim Oberstar as the next Secretary of Transportation to replace the current secretary, Ray LaHood, who is retiring.

Oberstar certainly has chops in the field of transportation policy. He chaired the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee from 2007 until early 2011. After serving 36 years in Congress, Oberstar was defeated by Republican Chip Cravaack, who was himself defeated two years later by current U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan.

In a Feb. 8 letter to Obama, the delegation’s Democrats called Oberstar “a preeminent leader” in the field of transportation issues and touted his “practical, bipartisan approach to public policy.”

Nolan’s office released the letter and said it was part of a “behind the scenes” effort to secure the job for Oberstar.

Last month, Oberstar told Politico he was interested in serving as Transportation Secretary if the job opened up.

Still, Oberstar’s road to nomination faces some potholes. At 78, Oberstar would be nearly a decade older than the next oldest member of Obama’s cabinet, Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki, 70. Oberstar also clashed with the White House over his 2009 proposal to bring forward a $500 billion highway bill that would have required a politically unpopular gas tax increase. Under pressure from the administration, that bill was shelved.