Obama Gives Final Cabinet Spots to Solis, LaHood

President-elect Barack Obama nominated the final members of his Cabinet on Friday, selecting a California congresswoman to be secretary of labor and a Republican from his home state of Illinois to be secretary of transportation.

Rep. Hilda Solis, the four-term congresswoman tapped to head the Labor Department, is known to be strongly pro-union but is viewed skeptically by some business groups.

Rep. Ray LaHood was picked for the Department of Transportation. Defense Secretary Robert Gates is the only other Republican named to Obama's Cabinet.

Obama also picked former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk to be U.S. trade representative and venture capitalist Karen Mills to lead the Small Business Administration.

"These leaders will help craft a 21st-century economic recovery plan," Obama said after announcing his picks. He said they would help him in his quest to create 2.5 million new jobs.

"If jobs and income are our yardstick, then the success of the American worker is key to the success of the American economy," Obama said.

He said the Labor Department has "not lived up to its role" as an advocate for working families over the last eight years, but Solis would be a "champion of our middle class."

During eight years in the California Legislature and as a Democratic congresswoman since 2001, Solis wrote measures to help migrant workers, combat domestic violence and limit use of pesticides.

"As secretary of labor, I'll work to strengthen our unions and support every American in our nation's diverse work force," Solis said Friday.

The third child of seven and the first in her family to attend college, Solis has been the only member of Congress of Central American descent. She represents a heavily Hispanic district that includes portions of eastern Los Angeles County and East L.A. Her background has labor advocates cheering, while business interests are reacting warily. Solis is viewed as quite liberal and has sometimes been criticized as inflexible in advancing her causes.

LaHood, who's retiring from the House after 14 years, is seen as a moderate, often at the forefront of efforts to make the House floor less partisan. He has sometimes angered party leaders by refusing to follow the party line. "We trash each other and end up making the institution look bad," he once said. "That's why Congress' approval ratings are so low."

Although LaHood once served on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, he has less experience in transportation issues than other contenders Obama was said to be considering, and many industry experts -- even in LaHood's home state -- were hard-pressed to say where he stood on specific issues. Obama waved off those criticisms Friday.

Obama's announcements came on the day the Bush administration said it was offering $17.4 billion in loans to ailing automakers after Congress defeated a bailout bill last week.

Obama, who takes office in a month, praised the White House action and said that "the auto companies must not squander this chance." He said they must begin "the long-term restructuring that is absolutely necessary ... while also creating the fuel-efficient cars of tomorrow."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.