- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 20, 2005

The Senate approved two of President Bush’s Cabinet nominees hours after his inauguration to a second term yesterday, but Democrats objected to holding a vote to confirm Condoleezza Rice as secretary of state.

Insisting they needed more than the two hours that Republicans were willing to allot for floor debate, Democrats delayed the vote until Wednesday.

But they also agreed to a definite time for a vote, which means they will not filibuster Miss Rice’s nomination, virtually guaranteeing that she will be confirmed.

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, in objecting to holding the vote yesterday, said he had spoken with Miss Rice at the traditional post-inauguration luncheon that Congress hosts for the president.

“She said her main concern was to make sure she was confirmed by the time the president gave his State of the Union address,” Mr. Reid said, adding that wouldn’t be a problem.

The Senate confirmed Nebraska Gov. Mike Johanns as secretary of agriculture and Margaret Spellings, who was Mr. Bush’s domestic policy adviser, as secretary of education. Both were approved on voice votes.

Next week, in addition to Miss Rice, both sides expect to confirm Carlos Gutierrez, the chief executive officer of Kellogg, as commerce secretary.

During yesterday’s formal luncheon, held in what is now called Statuary Hall but used to be the House chamber, Mr. Bush called the inaugural ceremony “magnificent.”

“Any president who has ever been through one is able to step back and say, ‘What an impressive moment, not in my life, but in the life of the country,’” he told those gathered. “It reminds us that we serve a cause larger than ourself.”

He also committed to work with Congress in the next four years.

“As leaders, we have a common duty to achieve results for the people, regardless of our political parties,” Mr. Bush said. “There’s important work to be done, and I look forward to working with members of both houses and both parties to achieve that job.”

After lunch, Mr. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney were presented with various gifts from Congress, including hurricane lamps with engraved silver bases and two flags that had flown above the Capitol during the swearing-in ceremony. First lady Laura Bush mouthed “thank you” around the room.

Nearby, Bush campaign strategist Karl Rove sat at a table with Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, and checked his personal digital assistant.

Afterward, Mr. Kennedy, an ardent supporter of Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, Mr. Bush’s Democratic opponent in the election, joked with reporters about sitting with Mr. Rove: “We talked it all over. We have it all worked out.”

Luncheon organizers appeared to have a little fun seating odd couples together. Joining Mr. Kennedy and Mr. Rove at their table was former President Bill Clinton and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, New York Democrat.

Asked what he and Mr. Rove discussed during the hourlong luncheon, Mr. Clinton laughed and replied: “Presidential libraries.”

Later in the day, Democratic leaders took to the Senate floor to praise Mr. Bush, with Mr. Reid saying the five-minute remarks during the luncheon were the best the president has ever delivered.

The minority leader said Democrats hope this is a new start for bipartisanship, but that the president will have to prove himself.

“It will only be a new beginning if the tone set today is carried forward in the years to come,” he said.

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