- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 30, 2000

The Bush transition team yesterday opened a D.C.-area office and made plans to move senior staff to Washington, as the campaign began reaching out to congressional leaders to smooth the Texas governor's path to the White House.
"The fact is that the election in Florida's been counted, it's been recounted, it's been certified, and we've got to get on with the business of putting together a government," said former Defense Secretary Richard B. Cheney, the vice president-elect and head of the Republican transition team.
Mr. Cheney leased space near his home in McLean, Va., for the privately funded transition office. The campaign also established a fund-raising committee in Austin to pay for the transition efforts, since the General Services Administration has so far refused to release the money and downtown office space designated by Congress for the transition.
George W. Bush, the president-elect, meanwhile, has moved his operation to his ranch near Waco, out of the public eye. But congressional sources say he has been contacting Republican legislators for advice on issues and for help in winning over Democrats in the closely split Congress.
Mr. Bush called at least three Republican members of the House Education Committee on Tuesday Reps. Michael N. Castle of Delaware, Pete Hoekstra of Michigan and Thomas E. Petri of Wisconsin to discuss education policy. He and Mr. Hoekstra also discussed ways to woo organized labor, which was a major supporter of Vice President Al Gore in this election.
Transition staff has also kept in close touch with key advisers in the House particularly Rep. Rob Portman of Ohio and Rep. Roy Blunt of Missouri to discuss relations with Congress and receive advice on which Democrats might be willing to cooperate with Republicans, or even join the emerging Bush administration, congressional staffers said.
"It's very broad," campaign spokesman Ari Fleischer said of the calls to Republican leaders. "He's just touching base, saying he's looking forward to working with them, talking to them. It doesn't go much beyond that."
Mr. Bush has talked with the entire Republican leadership in Congress in recent days, but is deliberately avoiding open contacts with Democratic leaders, Mr. Fleischer said.
"Part of bipartisanship is respect and understanding," said Mr. Fleischer. "The governor respects and understands that some Democrats are working closely at this time on the contest of the election results in Florida. Out of a bipartisan spirit and understanding, the governor is going to wait for the appropriate moment for his bipartisan phone calls to be well-received."
Mr. Bush also called but did not reach Rep. Gene Taylor, Mississippi Democrat, who has said he would vote for Mr. Bush if the presidential contest ended up in the House.
"The governor appreciated that and was going to call to say 'Thank you,' " said Mr. Fleischer.
Mr. Blunt said yesterday that Mr. Bush would be aggressive in reaching out to Democrats once the Florida situation settles down somewhat. He said Mr. Bush will make a pitch to Democratic leaders and members alike for support.
"I think [the tone of the relationship] is really up to them, but there will be efforts to reach out to the leadership," he said. "But I think the leadership needs to understand that there will also be efforts to go around them to reach the rank and file."
Mr. Blunt refused to discuss his specific advice to the Bush staff, but he said there are clearly Democrats who will work with the Republican administration.
One prominent Democrat definitively took himself out of the running for a Bush Cabinet post yesterday. Former Sen. Sam Nunn, Georgia Democrat, said he would not head the Defense Department under a Republican president, as had been widely rumored.
While Mr. Nunn's name has circulated inside the Beltway, and he would clearly enjoy support from many Republican senators, some Republicans say privately that he would have run into trouble with senior lawmakers.
Some of the older Senate Republicans, particularly Sen. John W. Warner of Virginia, still remember with bitterness Mr. Nunn's role in derailing the nomination for former Sen. John Tower of Texas to be secretary of defense in the Bush administration, Republicans say.
To attend to the sensitive relationship with congressmen of both parties, Mr. Bush yesterday tapped David J. Gribbin III to be his congressional liaison during the transition.
Mr. Gribbin, 61, is an old hand on Capitol Hill and of the Bush administration. He worked for Mr. Cheney, who was then a congressman from Wyoming, and for former Sen. Daniel R. Coats, who is in line to become defense secretary in a new Bush administration. Mr. Gribbin went on to work for Mr. Cheney as congressional liaison for the Defense Department and again in the private sector at Halliburton Co., the Texas oil-equipment manufacturer that Mr. Cheney headed before joining the Bush campaign.
Mr. Gore, meanwhile, proceeded with his own transition confidently predicting that he would still become president but his efforts were not nearly as elaborate or energetic as those of Mr. Bush. On Tuesday, Mr. Gore invited photographers to his official residence to capture a working lunch with Treasury Secretary Lawrence H. Summers, a likely Gore Cabinet appointee.
Mr. Gore stopped by the White House yesterday for meetings with transition director Roy Neel, and with two other Clinton aides likely to stay on in a Gore administration: Labor Secretary Alexis M. Herman and Kathleen McGinty. Mrs. McGinty, who previously led President Clinton's Council on Environmental Quality, could lead the Environmental Protection Agency in a Gore administration.
Mr. Cheney plans to travel to Texas today along with retired Gen. Colin Powell, widely believed to be in line for defense secretary, for "extensive discussions" with Mr. Bush at his ranch.
Mr. Cheney told reporters that he does not plan to announce any Cabinet-level appointments this week. Republicans say that Mr. Bush is reluctant to look overconfident while his Democratic rival has legitimate legal avenues open to challenge the election.
But Mr. Cheney did announce several key transition appointments in addition to Mr. Gribbin. He confirmed that Mr. Bush's Texas chief of staff, Clay Johnson, will come to Washington to head the transition office and Mr. Fleischer will become the voice of the transition.
Attorney Michael Toner, who has been part of the Republican legal team trying to sort out the messy election disputes in Florida, will serve as general counsel for the transition.
Dave Boyer reported from Austin. Andrew Cain, Rowan Scarborough and Jerry Seper in Washington contributed to this report.

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