- The Washington Times - Friday, June 23, 2006


Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta, the only Democrat in President Bush’s Cabinet, will step down in two weeks.

Mr. Mineta’s resignation is effective July 7, White House press secretary Tony Snow said today.

Mr. Mineta, 74, was plagued with back problems during his tenure as transportation secretary and spent months working from home and the hospital, but he has since recovered.

Asked why Mr. Mineta resigned, Mr. Snow said: “Because he wanted to.”

“He was not being pushed out,” he said. “As a matter of fact, the president and the vice president and others were happy with him. He put in five and half years — that’s enough time.”

Mineta spokesman Robert Johnson said he is “moving on to pursue other challenges.”

Mr. Mineta’s tenure included a major security buildup in response to the September 11, 2001, attacks by terrorist hijackers. Mr. Snow credited Mr. Mineta with establishing the Transportation Security Agency, cutting regulations and red tape to liberalize the commercial aviation market, helping shape the legislation that finances the nation’s highways and injecting “sound economic principles” into the nation’s passenger rail system.

Mr. Snow paid tribute to Mr. Mineta’s long history in public life: his service in the Army, his elections to local positions in California, his 20 years representing California in the U.S. House of Representatives and his tours in two Cabinet positions, as commerce secretary under former President Bill Clinton and now under Mr. Bush.

Mr. Mineta is one of just three people who have served in Mr. Bush’s Cabinet from the beginning of his presidency. The others are Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Labor Secretary Elaine Chao.

There had been speculation for years that Mr. Mineta was on the verge of resigning, partly because of his health and partly because of Cabinet shake-ups.

One of Mr. Mineta’s main achievements was the passage of a six-year, $286.4 billion highway spending plan in July 2005added 2005 after nearly two years of wrangling. The plan has since been criticized for containing too many “earmarks,” special projects sought by lawmakers.

The son of Japanese immigrants, Mr. Mineta has achieved a series of firsts for Asian-Americans: first to serve as a Cabinet secretary, when Mr. Clinton appointed him to the Commerce Department in 2000; first to serve as mayor of a major city, his native San Jose, Calif., where the airport bears his name; and first to head a congressional committee, the House Transportation Committee.

After the September 11 attacks, Mr. Mineta oversaw the creation of the new agency to improve transportation security. The TSA put thousands of air marshals on commercial flights, installed high-tech equipment to check baggage at airports and hired tens of thousands of workers to screen air travelers and their baggage.

The TSA became part of the Homeland Security Department in March 2003.

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