Clinton set to name Bentsen at Treasury Busy week ahead for nominee news

December 06, 1992|By John Fairhall | John Fairhall,Staff Writer

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- Promising "some news to chew on," President-elect Bill Clinton is planning to make this week his most eventful of the transition, with the announcement of at least one Cabinet secretary -- Sen. Lloyd Bentsen at the Treasury -- and meetings with congressional leaders.

This flurry of public activity, following almost five weeks of mainly private deliberations, will give Americans their first glimpse of the next administration.

Mr. Clinton is scheduled to fly tomorrow to Washington for a two-day visit that includes meetings with new House members, whose support he'll need, and a courtesy call on Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist.

On Wednesday he is expected to announce the economic foundation of his administration. Mr. Bentsen, 71, the Texas Democrat who chairs the Senate Finance Committee, is Mr. Clinton's pick for Treasury secretary, according to sources.

Mr. Clinton's economic team also will include heads of the Office of Management and Budget, the Council of Economic Advisers and a new group he promised in his campaign to create, an Economic Security Council, which will coordinate policy. He would like his team to be in place before the economic conference scheduled Dec. 14-15 in Little Rock.

The conference, a high-profile forum for economic discussions that Mr. Clinton and Vice President-elect Al Gore will lead, will include about 200 participants from small and large businesses, labor and academia. Plans for the conference, and a list of those attending, will be completed this week.

Mr. Clinton would not comment yesterday on Mr. Bentsen, saying, "Next week, you'll know."

For several days now, Mr. Clinton and his aides have been hinting at action. "You all will have some news to chew on in the next few days," Mr. Clinton said Thursday.

But Mr. Clinton has avoided making announcements, confining his public appearances to recreational activity. He jogged yesterday -- 4.7 miles in 40 minutes -- and golfed at the Chenal Country Club, despite freezing rain and bone-chilling wind.

"Do you think this certifies me to be too nutty to be president?" he asked reporters and photographers. Yes, the journalists replied.

On Friday night, dressed in blue jeans and a brown leather jacket, he took Chelsea, his 12-year-old daughter, to a Christmas parade outside the Capitol. Then he went upstairs to his office, only to find it locked. Several minutes passed before Mr. Clinton, who will resign the governorship in a week or two, could get in.

Later that evening, he traveled with Chelsea and three of her friends in an eight-vehicle motorcade -- for Secret Service, staff and journalists -- to a TCBY yogurt shop.

Mr. Clinton's economic appointments are expected to be a mix of individuals currently advising him and others who aren't, including financial industry executives and people with government experience.

Robert B. Reich, a Harvard professor and the director of Mr. Clinton's transition economic group, is a leading candidate to head either the Economic Security Council or the Council of Economic Advisers. Lawrence H. Summers, chief economist at the World Bank, and Robert Rubin, co-chairman of the Wall Street firm of Goldman Sachs, are other possible choices.

For director of the Office of Management and Budget, he is said to be considering Rep. Leon E. Panetta, D-Calif., chairman of the House Budget Committee, and Alice M. Rivlin, former head of the Congressional Budget Office.

Robert Shapiro, an economist at the Progressive Policy Institute, may also be given a high-level economic job, say sources close to Mr. Clinton.

Other appointments are possible. Mr. Clinton has said, for example, that he considers the Department of Energy part of the economic policy apparatus. The Office of U.S. Trade Representative is another key post.

The signs have long pointed to Mr. Bentsen for the Treasury job. He met with Mr. Clinton in Little Rock last month, is highly regarded by the president-elect and, as chairman of the Senate finance panel, is an expert on the economic and tax issues that will dominate the new administration's agenda.

Mr. Clinton telephoned Mr. Bentsen late Thursday night to discuss his role, according to news reports. That followed a meeting between Mr. Bentsen and Texas Gov. Ann W. Richards, who is concerned about finding an electable Democratic replacement for his Senate seat. The Dallas Morning News reported that former San Antonio Mayor Henry Cisneros, a campaign and transition adviser to Mr. Clinton, heads the list of possible interim replacements.

If Governor Richards taps Mr. Cisneros, that might enhance the Cabinet prospects of another prominent Hispanic leader, Rep. Bill Richardson, D-N.M., who is under consideration for interior secretary and recently met with Mr. Clinton.

Mr. Clinton has been taking his time interviewing job candidates. But he needs to move quickly now in light of the economic conference next week and his campaign promise to have an "explosive" first 100 days in office.

He is also coming under unwanted pressure on the foreign policy front, which is not his top priority, because of President Bush's decision to send troops to Somalia. But it's not clear yet whether that will require him to speed up the selection of his secretary of state and secretary of defense, positions for which Democratic Sens. Bill Bradley of New Jersey and Sam Nunn of Georgia are among the candidates.

The names of conference invitees have been almost as closely guarded as those of possible administration appointees. AFL-CIO officials have confirmed that their president, Lane Kirkland, is coming.

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