WASHINGTON -- If you read the tea leaves under the Capitol dome, all signs point to a speedy confirmation for Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx to become the nation's next Secretary of Transportation.
Senators on the confirmation committee are offering glowing comments about Foxx's testimony on Wednesday. During two hours of questioning by the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, Foxx appeared calm and well-prepared.
At the beginning of the hearing, Missouri Republican Senator Roy Blunt called it a "non-controversial nomination" and afterward told NBC Charlotte, he was "very impressed with Mayor Foxx."
Much of the questioning centered not on if Foxx becomes a cabinet member, but what his priorities will be once he is confirmed.
Foxx and often outspoken Senator Ted Cruz of Texas had met privately before the hearing. Foxx said much to people's surprise, he really enjoyed talking with Cruz. At the conclusion of his questioning, Cruz said to Foxx, "I look forward to supporting your nomination."
Committee Chair Senator Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia encouraged Foxx, once he is confirmed, to challenge committee members when he was frustrated or unable to meet their wishes. "Goad us," said Rockefeller.
At the end of the afternoon hearing, Foxx first hugged his wife Samara. He then hugged retired federal judge Nathaniel Jones whom Foxx had clerked for in Cincinnati. Jones told NBC Charlotte that Foxx was "already a star" when he clerked for him.
The Foxx hearing was standing room only with a large group of photographers and reporters. The White House would not allow Foxx to answer media questions as he was escorted down the hall of the Russell Office Building.
North Carolina Senators Kay Hagan and Richard Burr introduced the Charlotte mayor to the committee and told NBC Charlotte that having Foxx as transportation secretary would benefit North Carolina. Hagan said she is "positive" Anthony Foxx will be confirmed.
Foxx's Transcript from the Senate Hearing:
"If I have the honor to lead the department, I would bring the perspective serving as Mayor of Charlotte, which is the 17th largest city in America.
As mayor, I know transportation from the ground up, but I learned the value of quality transportation and hard work even earlier. I was born and raised in Charlotte by my mother and grandparents, who were public school teachers. Things were not always easy growing up. Many times there would he a twenty dollar bill on the table, and my family would have to choose between basic necessities and funding a school field trip. Somehow they always made the investment in me and for that I am forever grateful. Together, they taught me to take pride in hard work, to take responsibility for my actions and to understand education would unlock countless doors.
My first job when I was 12 years old was at Charlotte's Discovery Place museum. To get there I rode the No. 6 bus after school. The No. 6 connected me to the larger world of opportunities, and I truly believe whether it is a bus, a road, a train, a plane or a ship-- our transportation system at its best connects our people to jobs and better quality of life.
When I became Mayor in 2009, Charlotte was facing an economic downturn and steep revenue declines. I decided to make efficient and innovative transportation investments the centerpiece of Charlotte's job creation and economic recovery efforts.
These investments included:
Extending the Lynx light rail system to the University of North Carolina Charlotte
Expanding Charlotte Douglas International Airport
Breaking ground on Charlotte Regional Intermodal facility
Completing our I-485 Beltway
Repairing the Yatkin River Bridge
Starting the Charlotte Streetcar project.
Today more than 19 million riders have used the existing light rail system since it opened in 2007. WIth more than 15,000 riders on an average weekday. Passenger traffic at Charlotte Douglas airport reach a record high in 2012 and our street car project is expected to connect people with jobs, schools, medical facilities right in the heart of the city.
The truth is that we did not accomplish these successes alone. Business, the public and all levels of government worked together to find pragmatic solutions for transportation challenges we faced, while not using a one-size fits all approach. It's the kind of bi-partisan approach that made Secretary LaHood so effective at the Department of Transportation, and a model I will also follow.
If confirmed I plan to focus on three key areas:
Ensuring our transportation system is the safest int he world would be our top priority, as it has been for secretary LaHood, the dedicated DOT workforce and this committee.
My second focus would be on improving the efficiency and performance of our existing transportation system. Cutting edge transportation leaders are finding new ways to boost productivity through better use of technology, data, economic analysis and private sector innovations, such as private, public partnerships to bring more private sector capital and innovation into the infrastructure market.
Third, we must build this country's infrastructure to meet the needs of the next generation of Americans. The private sector cannot do this alone. The federal government has the responsibility to ensure our global competitiveness by investing in a robust mutil-modal system, a stronger national freight network, and key innovations like NextGen and advanced roadway in technology.
As a Mayor who has delivered projects to his constituents, I know too well that future uncertainty at the federal level makes it difficult to do smart, cost-effective long-term planning and development. We also need investments in policies that promote opportunity, enhanced quality of life, promote environmental sustainability and reduce our dependance on foreign oil.
I look forward to working with Congress and the broader transportation community to tackle the though challenges and seize the exciting opportunities we have to innovate, invest and make the American transportation system the best in the world."