Foxx, the mayor of Charlotte, N.C., is the first black nominee among the president's picks for open spots in his second term Cabinet. The president had faced questions, including from the Congressional Black Caucus, about a lack of diversity in his first round of nominations after winning re-election.
Obama said that as a mayor, Foxx knows how to use infrastructure spending to create jobs and boost economic growth. The White House cited Foxx's work on Charlotte's electric tram service, an expansion of a light rail system and the opening of a third runway at the city's airport as experience that qualifies him for the Cabinet post.
"Charlotte made one of the largest investments in transportation," Obama said during a nomination ceremony in the East Room of the White House. "All of that has not only helped create new jobs, it's helped Charlotte become more attractive to business."
Foxx, 41, has served as Charlotte's mayor since 2009. He bolstered his national profile last year when his city hosted the Democratic Party's national convention.
Among those in the audience for the East Room ceremony was Foxx's grandmother, who worked in the White House during the Truman administration.
If confirmed by the Senate, Foxx will take over the Transportation Department from outgoing Secretary Ray LaHood, a rare Republican serving in a Democratic administration. In a nod to his predecessor, Foxx said, "there is no such thing as a Democratic or Republican road, bridge, port airfield or rail system. We must work together across party lines to enhance this nation's infrastructure."
The Transportation Department has been at the center of Washington's most recent fight over the so-called sequester cuts. The automatic cuts resulted in furloughs for air traffic controllers that spurred delays at many airports, angering both lawmakers and the public.
Congress reached a deal last week to provide the Transportation Department flexibility that allowed it to end the air traffic controller furloughs
Obama is also close to announcing his picks for two other Cabinet-level posts. Longtime Obama fundraiser and hotel heiress Penny Pritzker is the leading candidate to run the Commerce Department, and White House international economic adviser Michael Froman is the top choice to be the next U.S. Trade Representative.
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