- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 3, 2001

George W. Bush named his last three Cabinet nominees yesterday, including a retiring Republican senator, a Hispanic female activist and a Democrat who now works in President Clinton's Cabinet.
The president-elect chose Norman Y. Mineta Mr. Clinton's secretary of commerce to lead the Transportation Department. He also picked outgoing Sen. Spencer Abraham of Michigan for energy secretary and conservative Linda Chavez for labor secretary.
"I can't think of a better way to start the new year than to round out a Cabinet, one that I think is one of the strongest that any president has been ever able to assemble," Mr. Bush said as he introduced the final three Cabinet nominees in Austin, Texas.
As the Senate prepares for its first confirmation hearing later this week for a Bush nominee Donald Evans as commerce secretary the president-elect also said he expects the Senate to confirm his attorney general-designee, Sen. John Ashcroft.
Liberal groups have threatened to block that appointment.
"I'm confident that he'll withstand the scrutiny about his fairness and his heart," said Mr. Bush.
In finally fulfilling his promise to include at least one Democrat in his Cabinet, Mr. Bush has assembled a diverse team: two black men, one Asian-American man, four women (including a Hispanic), a Hispanic man, a Lebanese-American man and five non-Hispanic white men.
"It says I'm not afraid to surround myself with strong and competent people," Mr. Bush said. "I believe the American people want a president who seeks the best; people from all walks of life who are strong, experienced, capable Americans. This is a team of people who will be dedicated to doing what is right for America."
Mr. Mineta said he decided to switch teams and work for a Republican as secretary of transportation because "there are no Democratic or Republican highways."
"I am a Democrat … and I am proud of and committed to my party's principles and its heritage," said Mr. Mineta. "However, the campaign is over."
The president-elect, who had talked to Sen. John B. Breaux of Louisiana and other Democrats about joining his administration in recent weeks, said his nomination of Mr. Mineta sends "a signal that this is an administration that recognizes talent when we see it, regardless of political party."
"I intend to continue to reach out to Democrats, to discuss with Democrats ways to get an education bill through the Congress, or ways to work on patients' bill of rights or Medicare reform," said Mr. Bush.
Mr. Abraham was nominated yesterday to lead a department that he tried to abolish in 1997, when he argued that the Energy Department was a bloated bureaucracy.
He co-sponsored with eight other Republicans the Department of Energy Abolishment Act, which would have sent most Energy Department functions to Interior and Defense.
In 1995, Mr. Abraham co-authored an article in The Washington Times in which he called Energy one of the federal government's "least defensible agencies." A Bush campaign spokesman did not return a phone call last night about Mr. Abraham's past disregard for the agency.
Said Mr. Bush yesterday, "Senator Abraham knows the issues of energy policy, and he understands the opportunities and challenges before us."
The one-term senator lost his re-election bid in November to Rep. Debbie Stabenow, who will take the oath of office today.
Mr. Abraham, who described himself as "the grandson of poor Lebanese immigrants," said yesterday that his new department must work quickly to solve America's energy problems.
"We have vast resources within the United States, and these are crucial to our country's security," said Mr. Abraham. "We can make good use of them while at the same time, I believe, meeting our responsibilities as good stewards of the land, the air and the water. This is the duty of the next secretary of energy, and I am very eager to take up the task."
During the campaign, Mr. Bush criticized the Clinton administration for letting the United States become more dependent on foreign oil and failing to develop domestic energy reserves.
Mrs. Chavez is a columnist and a conservative immigration specialist who served with the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights in the Reagan administration.
She noted yesterday that her father was a house painter and her mother worked as a waitress.
"I intend to keep faith with the men and the women who still work at jobs like those my parents held," she said. "I hope also to seek out new opportunities to increase the skills and the productivity of all Americans, to promote safe working conditions, and to administer the nation's labor laws."
Mr. Bush today will begin a two-day economic forum in Austin with dozens of the nation's captains of industry. Since Vice President Al Gore conceded the election Dec. 13, Mr. Bush has held several such meetings on agriculture, education, and religion-based solutions to social problems.
On Capitol Hill, the Senate Commerce Committee yesterday scheduled a confirmation hearing for 10 a.m. tomorrow on the nomination of Mr. Evans to head the Commerce Department.
The announcement came as Democratic Sen. Tom Daschle of South Dakota, who will become Senate majority leader today, and Republican Sen. Trent Lott of Mississippi held discussions about how to govern Senate committees until Jan. 20.
On that date, Richard B. Cheney will be sworn in as vice president and will cast tie-breaking votes in the Senate, returning the majority to Republicans in the chamber, which is split 50-50.
Lott spokesman Susan Irby said Mr. Daschle and Mr. Lott had reached no agreement yet, but Mr. Lott saw no reason why the Evans hearing could not take place in the meantime. His nomination is not expected to encounter trouble.
Mr. Bush yesterday gave reporters a new twist on the mandate for his legislative agenda, following his election to the presidency in which he lost the popular vote by more than 500,000 ballots.
"Had I thought the campaign was well, the candidate who won the most votes would be the president, I would have campaigned differently," said Mr. Bush. "For example, I might have spent a little more time and a little more money in my own state of Texas trying to maximize the popular vote. But I campaigned as if the one who got the most electoral votes would become the president.
"I believe the reason I'm standing here is because of the agenda I articulated during the course of the campaign. And I intend to take that agenda that I tried to spell out as clearly as I could to the American people to the halls of Congress."
John Godfrey contributed to this report.


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