- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 18, 2006

White House staff changes are coming soon, the president’s spokesman said yesterday, after new Chief of Staff Joshua B. Bolten met with senior employees and told them to prepare for changes.

Press secretary Scott McClellan said it is “time for a little bit of a fresh start” for the administration, adding that Mr. Bolten told the staffers that anyone planning to leave before the end of the year should resign now, so the administration can get its team in place for the stretch run.

Mr. McClellan said that nobody in the meeting announced plans to quit and that the announcement is not a sign the administration is changing course on policy.

“Josh talked about how this will refresh and re-energize the team and for all of us to renew our commitment as we go forward,” Mr. McClellan said.

Mr. Bolten took over from former chief of staff Andrew H. Card Jr. on Friday. Yesterday was his first full weekday on the job. Republican strategists and staffers on Capitol Hill said his early action showed that he is taking control of the White House, and they were encouraged by the call for revitalization.

“Many members would like to see an aggressive White House with some fresh faces and new energy,” said one Republican aide.

President Bush has been stung recently by complaints from Congress that he has a tin ear and that his legislative affairs staff doesn’t coordinate well with members. Mr. Bolten already has taken steps to reach out to Congress, calling 30 members the day after he was named to the new post.

Mr. Bush has given Mr. Bolten a free hand to restructure the White House staff. The president is fighting to keep driving his policy agenda through 2008, even as attention turns to the 2006 congressional elections and the 2008 presidential primaries.

Mr. Bolten already is looking to fill his old slot as director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), and Mr. McClellan said more changes are on the way.

“I would expect some other announcements soon,” he said.

One former senior administration official said Joseph W. Hagin, deputy chief of staff and a longtime trusted aide to the president, may soon depart. In addition, Mr. Bolten may bring his own deputy at OMB, Joel D. Kaplan, over to fill the slot vacated by Claude Allen, the president’s former top domestic policy adviser, the former aide said.

Mr. McClellan, who became the press secretary in July 2003, has in recent weeks been rumored to be mulling a departure.

“Two years in this position is a long time. I’m very mindful of that. But look, I never get into any of that speculation,” he told reporters yesterday.

Speculation also has focused on Cabinet secretaries. Asked whether Mr. Bolten’s authority extends to rearranging the Cabinet, Mr. McClellan said the president will look to Mr. Bolten for “advice and counsel” and said the new chief has “full authority to do … what he believes is in the best interests of this White House and this president.”

Observers said it is normal for political operations, particularly on Capitol Hill, to ask employees to leave early in the year, because it ensures continuity during an election year.

Mr. Bolten joined Mr. Bush and other administration officials, including Treasury Secretary John W. Snow, yesterday at a business round table in Sterling.

Mr. Bush used the occasion of tax day, the due date for federal income taxes, to urge that his tax cuts be made permanent. Because of Senate rules, many provisions are scheduled to expire after 10 years.

“It’s tax day, and it’s a day to recommit ourselves to low taxes,” he said.

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