- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 9, 2004

ASSOCIATED PRESS

President Bush has asked the secretaries of the Transportation, Labor, Interior and Housing departments to remain and they have all agreed, completing decisions about which Cabinet members will stay for his second term.

And Mr. Bush announced yesterday that Jim Nicholson, former chairman of the Republican National Committee and current U.S. ambassador to the Vatican, is his choice as the next secretary of the Veterans Affairs Department.

Mr. Bush spoke with the four Cabinet secretaries — Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta, Interior Secretary Gale A. Norton, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Alphonso Jackson and Labor Secretary Elaine L. Chao — to secure their decisions to remain in the Cabinet, White House press secretary Scott McClellan said.

Veterans Affairs Secretary Anthony J. Principi on Wednesday became the ninth member of Mr. Bush’s 15-person Cabinet to leave. Mr. Nicholson, chosen to replace him, is a decorated Vietnam veteran.

“Jim Nicholson is a patriot, a man of deep conviction who has answered his country’s call many times,” Mr. Bush said in the brief Roosevelt Room announcement ceremony.

Mr. Nicholson stood at his side, with his wife and two of their children looking on.

“When I think of growing up dirt poor in a tenant house without plumbing and sometimes without food, I marvel at America, that the boy from Struble, Iowa, may serve in the president’s Cabinet. How could this be?” Mr. Nicholson said. “For me, it is because of the opportunities my country gave me as a cadet at West Point and as a soldier. These experiences have defined my life.”

The White House had announced Wednesday that Treasury Secretary John W. Snow would remain in his post. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld earlier had agreed to stay.

Mr. Bush still must fill the top jobs at the Energy and the Health and Human Services departments. Mr. McClellan said he would not speculate on who would take those jobs.

Among the names mentioned to succeed Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham are Tom Kuhn, president of Edison Electric Institute, the utility industry’s trade group; Kyle McSlarrow, Mr. Abraham’s deputy at Energy; former Louisiana Democratic Sen. Bennett Johnston; Louisiana Democratic Sen. John B. Breaux; New Mexico Republican Rep. Heather A. Wilson; and William S. Martin, who had a top post in the Energy Department under Mr. Bush’s father.

Mr. Abraham announced his resignation on Nov. 15.

Medicare chief Mark McClellan — who also has served as commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration and is the brother of White House press secretary Scott McClellan — is considered to be Mr. Bush’s top choice to replace Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson.

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