- The Washington Times - Friday, June 23, 2006

Norman Y. Mineta, the longest-serving U.S. secretary of Transportation and the only Democrat on President Bush’s Cabinet, is resigning effective July 7.

Mr. Mineta, who led the overhaul of transportation security in after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, “is resigning to pursue other challenges,” spokesman Robert Johnson said yesterday.

“I think we can expect him to make some decisions once he leaves office,” said Mr. Johnson, who declined to be more specific about Mr. Mineta’s plans. “Norm Mineta always has a plan and you can count on him being as busy if not busier as he has been in the past five-and-a-half years.”

White House press secretary Tony Snow, who made the announcement yesterday morning, stressed that Mr. Mineta “was not being pushed out.”

The secretary resigned “because he wanted to,” he said. “As a matter of fact, the president and the vice president and others were happy with him,” Mr. Snow added.

Mr. Johnson also rejected speculation that Mr. Mineta, 74, one of the administration’s three remaining original Cabinet members, was asked to resign amid a White House shake-up.

“It was absolutely the secretary’s decision,” he said.

Mr. Johnson wouldn’t comment on potential successors to Mr. Mineta, deferring to the White House. Mr. Snow did not discuss the search for a replacement.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Labor Secretary Elaine L. Chao are the Bush administration’s two other original Cabinet members still serving.

Mr. Mineta, who joined the Bush administration on Jan. 25, 2001, oversaw the creation of the Transportation Security Agency in 2002 and the federal takeover of security across the nation’s 425 airports after September 11. The TSA dramatically increased the number of air marshals on commercial flights, installed high-tech screening equipment at airports and hired tens of thousands of workers to screen passengers and their luggage.

Mr. Snow praised Mr. Mineta for freeing up the commercial aviation market by cutting red tape and eliminating unnecessary regulations. He also credited him with helping craft the six-year, $286 billion highway spending plan passed in July and “trying to introduce financial discipline and sound economic principles” to Amtrak.

James C. May, president of the Air Transport Association of America , the trade association for the major airlines, said Mr. Mineta leaves “an extraordinary legacy.”

This story is based in part on wire-service reports.

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