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Rahm Emanuel, the former Chicago mayor, Illinois congressman and Obama White House chief of staff, is being strongly considered to run Joe Biden’s Department of Transportation, according to reports.
Emanuel’s infrastructure chops include the development of a $2.3 billion railway extension project in Chicago and the renewal of the city’s two aging airports during his eight years as mayor.
But his office’s decision to suppress dashcam footage of the murder of a black teen at the hands of police in 2014 has made him a divisive figure even in his own party, with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) speaking out against his potential appointment, calling it “shameful.”
Reports by CNN, Axios and NBC Chicago suggest that Emanuel, 61, leads a pack of candidates being considered to fill the role currently held by Elaine Chao, the wife of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky).
Other names floated to run Biden’s transportation department include former South Bend, Ind. mayor and Democratic presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance-Bottoms and the Mayor of Los Angeles, Eric Garcetti.
Biden began unveiling his cabinet last week, appointing familiar Washington faces including former Secretary of State John Kerry to lead his climate effort, and today, former Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen to be treasury secretary.
Emanuel is a seasoned political operative, serving as Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman after being elected to Illinois’ 5th congressional seat in 2002, and was credited with Democrats winning 30 House seats in the 2006 election.
But he also served as Barack Obama’s White House chief of staff from 2008 until 2010 when Democrats’ standing in the House was smashed by Republicans, and Emanuel announced a successful bid for mayor of Chicago.
His legacy as chief of staff came under fire from both progressives, who blasted his piecemeal approach to healthcare reform, and Republicans who considered Emanuel hyper-partisan and ineffective.
As mayor, Emanuel faced fierce criticism over his handling of the 2014 police shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald which saw dashcam footage of his death suppressed until a court ordered its release a year later.
The video, which showed McDonald being shot by police 16 times as he walked away from them, led to widespread protests, a cop being charged with murder, calls for Emanuel’s resignation and contributed to his decision to eventually leave public office.
Violent crime like murders and shootings also surged in the Windy City under Emanuel’s watch and he was as ignoring the city’s poorer neighborhoods.
The party’s progressives have already publicly stated he has no place in the Biden White House, while it’s unclear if Emanuel will get the votes he needs to be confirmed as transportation secretary by the GOP-controlled Senate.
In a Nov. 23 tweet, Ocasio-Cortez accused Emanuel of covering up McDonald’s death and had no place in a Biden White House, insisting: “Covering up a murder is disqualifying for public leadership.”
“It is shameful and concerning that he is even being considered,” she added.
New members of the Democratic Party in the House won’t have a say in whether Emanuel could be confirmed but offered sharp criticism. Incoming Rep. Mondaire Jones (D-NY) and Illinois Rep. Cori Bush, both black, spoke out against Emanuel.
“Rahm Emanuel covered up the murder of a Black teenager, Laquan McDonald, while he was Mayor of Chicago,” Jones wrote.
“That he’s being considered for a cabinet position is completely outrageous and, honestly, very hurtful,” he added.
Said Bush: “The thing about covering up the murder of Laquan McDonald is that it disqualifies you from holding any type of public office. Forever.”
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