WIUM Tristates Public Radio

Darin LaHood on Presidential Politics, Amtrak, Tech Upgrades

Jun 20, 2016

Freshman Congressman Darin LaHood (R-IL) said he will support Donald Trump if the businessman/TV celebrity ends up as the Republican presidential nominee.  LaHood made his comments during an interview with Tri States Public Radio that also touched on a number of other topics, including Amtrak funding.

Too Far to the Left

The presidential contest came up toward the end of the nearly 25 minute conversation.

TSPR: "Did I read or hear someplace that if Donald Trump wins the Republican presidential nomination you would be supporting him?"

LaHood: "That's correct."

TSPR: "Someone who's made misogynistic comments, xenophobic comments, made fun of the handicapped -- that's someone you would still be willing to support?"

LaHood: "Well I will tell you this. He was not my first or second or third candidate. We started with 17. I was a supporter of Marco Rubio.  But I will tell you this. We live in a democracy. We started with 17 candidates. We've been through 11 debates. We've been through 40 states of elections. This is what the people in the Republican primary have decided to do. 

"And from my perspective, there is too much at stake in this election.  There are two Supreme Court justices -- maybe a third -- that will be decided in this next presidential term.  In my view, the country has gone way left in terms of regulation, in terms of the overreach of the federal government doing things by executive order. I think it's been a violation of the constitution.  I think our foreign policy has been diminished around the world and continues to be diminished. And so there's a lot at stake.

"I just cannot -- when I look at the choices here -- I can't support Hillary Clinton in this election. And I think Donald Trump brings a different perspective. He's not perfect. I hope he changes his views that he's expounded on during some of his campaign things. But from the standpoint of a business perspective, somebody that brings a different perspective and lets the country come back and focuses on jobs and opportunities.  We need, the private sector needs, to start flourishing in this country. We're not going to grow the economy with more government spending. We have to have the private sector flourishing and I think that will be part of what this debate and this campaign will be about."

LaHood said he would support Trump's judgment on filling U.S. Supreme Court vacancies.  Trump released a list of 13 potential nominees and LaHood considers them all "top quality people."

Riding the Rails

LaHood said his family took the train to Kansas City last year and had "a wonderful experience on the train." He said he will continue to use Amtrak himself and that he will continue to be supportive (politically) of Amtrak lines that are profitable. He cited the in-state route that runs through western Illinois as an example of a profitable route. (Editor's note: Amtrak Board member Tom Carper said the western Illinois route is financially supported by the state with some assistance from the federal government and it would not be profitable simply from ticket sales).

LaHood said he served on an Amtrak corridor committee when he was in the Illinois Senate so he feels well versed on passenger rail issues. He said that committee studied the idea of adding more in-state routes to serve markets such as Peoria and the Quad Cities.

"You have to look at, is it going to be able to be profitable? Can it sustain itself?  That's what you've got to look at," LaHood said. "If you think it can do that and a study proves that, I'm supportive of that."

LaHood said he's a big believer in looking at ways to make federal programs "more efficient, effective, and accountable."

He also said he's not sure it's fair to compare federal funding of highways and the aviation industry with passenger rail.

Act to Modernize Federal Technology

LaHood is the sponsor of the Networking and Information Technology Research and Development Modernization Act of 2016 (H.R. 5312), which he said will modernize and streamline the federal government’s computer system.

LaHood said the measure will help coordinate federal research done with supercomputers.  He said this will make it easier for public and private entities to take advantage of supercomputers’ capabilities. 

He cited the Blue Waters supercomputer at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign as an example.

“It’s used for Caterpillar when they design tractors and do simulations. It’s also used by many of our universities, including Western Illinois, (which) uses it to do a variety of research,” he said.

The bill updates an act from 25 years ago (the High Performance Computing Act of 1991).

The measure passed in the House with bipartisan support and little opposition.   It now heads to the Senate.