Bentsen called top pick for Treasury secretary Clinton team does background check

December 05, 1992|By Gwen Ifill | Gwen Ifill,New York Times News Service

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- Sen. Lloyd Bentsen, D-Texas, ha emerged as President-elect Bill Clinton's top choice for secretary of the Treasury, Clinton campaign officials said last night.

Mr. Bentsen, 71, has been informed that he is Mr. Clinton's first choice for the sensitive economics post, but officials of the transition team have not yet completed the required background examination of his financial records.

If Mr. Bentsen is the final selection, the formal announcement of his nomination would likely come next week as Mr. Clinton names the members of his economics team.

Mr. Bentsen's press spokesmen, Jack DeVore and Seth Goldman, said last night in Washington that Mr. Bentsen would have no comment on the matter. They added that they were unaware of any decision's having been made.

Reports on Mr. Clinton's choice appeared yesterday on the Bloomberg Business News, a news service, and in today's issue of the Washington Post. They were confirmed last night by officials on the Clinton transition team.

Mr. Bentsen, who was the vice presidential running mate of Michael S. Dukakis in the 1988 presidential campaign, is chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.

His appointment could enable another prominent Democrat, Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan of New York, to inherit the influential Finance Committee job.

It would also signal Mr. Clinton's willingness to establish a close working relationship with the Congress on economic matters and, because of Mr. Bentsen's ties to the more conservative financial community, strengthen the president-elect's hand in that area as well.

Clinton transition officials said Mr. Bentsen could be joined by Robert E. Rubin, the co-chairman of Goldman Sachs & Co., in the newly created post of economic security adviser, and by Roger Altman, a partner at the Blackstone Group on Wall Street, as deputy secretary.

The Altman decision, also reported by Bloomberg Business News and the Washington Post, was later confirmed by Clinton aides.

Robert Reich, the Harvard professor who is heading Mr. Clinton's economic transition team, is also considered to be a contender for economic security adviser, the officials said.

Mr. Clinton has also apparently settled on his preferences, pending the outcome of background checks, for other economic posts.

Rep. Leon Panetta of California, the chairman of the House Budget Committee, is the leading contender to be director of the Office of Management and Budget.

But Alice Rivlin, a scholar at the Brookings Institution and the original director of the Congressional Budget Office, also remains in the running. Ms. Rivlin is the only woman on the short list for economic posts so far.

News of Mr. Clinton's potential choices have become common fodder for speculation as the president-elect nears his first decisions.

Mr. Bentsen's selection would create a measure of confusion in Texas politics. Gov. Ann W. Richards, another Democrat, had advised Mr. Clinton that Mr. Bentsen's seat would be at risk if he vacated it.

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