Obama Continues to Steal Talent From Congress

Posted December 18, 2008 at 12:15pm

President-elect Barack Obama doesn’t seem to need a headhunter. He’s got the U.S. Congress. The selection of Rep. Hilda Solis (D-Calif.) as Labor secretary is just the latest in a series of executive branch nominations for sitting Members. Solis, who represents the Los Angeles area, is vice chairwoman of the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee. Elected in 2000, Solis served on the then-Education and the Workforce Committee until 2003, when she became the first Latina to be selected for the Energy and Commerce Committee. She has a 97 percent lifetime rating from the AFL-CIO. Her office did not immediately return an call for comment. Beginning with the selection last month of Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.) as his chief of staff, Obama has farmed both chambers of Congress to fill out his future Cabinet. At times even the rumor of a House or Senate selection has caused ripples of chaos in party leadership circles. Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.) chose not to take the post of U.S. trade representative, but the suggestion that he might accept set off a shadow race to replace him as vice chairman of the Democratic Caucus. On the state level, departing Members of Congress are set to trigger races to replace them in areas where the hangover of the November elections has yet to fade. Obama’s selection of Sen. Ken Salazar (D-Colo.) to head up the Department of Interior has caused concern in the Rocky Mountain swing state since his departure could flip his Senate seat to the GOP. Three members of the Colorado delegation have been mentioned as possible replacements for the first-term Senator, including Salazar’s brother, Rep. John Salazar (D), as well as Democratic Reps. Diana DeGette and Ed Perlmutter. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s (D-N.Y.) nomination as secretary of State has put her seat in the headlines — fueled by Caroline Kennedy’s desire to fill the opening. Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), ranking member of the House Homeland Security Committee and one of the only remaining House Republicans in the Empire State, also has expressed interest in the seat. Moderate GOP Rep. Ray LaHood (Ill.) is expected to be named as Obama’s pick for the secretary of Transportation on Friday, according to reports. LaHood announced he would retire from the 110th Congress in 2007 and is known to be a close ally of both Emanuel and Obama. Elected in 1994, he served on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee until 2002, when he was selected to serve on the powerful Appropriations Committee. There are only a few more nominees to be named for the incoming Obama Cabinet, including the director of intelligence, a post for which Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.) has been mentioned as a possible contender. Her office declined to comment on anything related to the selection process.