Clinton expected to name more picks for top posts, first on domestic side

December 17, 1992|By Susan Baer | Susan Baer,Staff Writer

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- With most of his Cabinet still an ensemble of empty chairs, President-elect Bill Clinton will spend nearly every day over the next week making high-level appointments in order to meet his self-imposed Christmas deadline.

The first round of remaining appointments is likely to be made today, with Mr. Clinton expected to dip into Congress again for some of his top-level appointments, and also to name more minorities and women to fulfill his promise of an administration that looks like America.

With the two-day economic summit behind him, Mr. Clinton spent yesterday in private meetings focusing on personnel decisions.

His spokesman, George Stephanopoulos, said that the president-elect was "energized" by the conference and "enthused by the reaction he got" from those who had attended. But in the aftermath of the conference, some have criticized Mr. Clinton's reluctance to be specific about such painful necessities as spending cuts and tax increases.

"The tough choices are coming," Mr. Stephanopoulos said.

He added that Mr. Clinton would be willing to consider an increased gasoline tax, proposed by some at this week's conference, if the burden "didn't fall disproportionately on the middle class."

For instance, he said, one way to balance the impact of such a tax on the middle class would be to cut Social Security taxes.

Mr. Clinton's economic package is likely to take a back seat to his remaining Cabinet appointments, which he has promised to complete by Christmas.

Transition director Warren Christopher, who was a deputy secretary of state in the Carter administration, has emerged as the leading candidate for secretary of state.

Aspin for defense job?

And Rep. Les Aspin of Wisconsin, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, is said by transition officials to head the short list of candidates for secretary of defense.

Mr. Aspin, who, like Mr. Clinton, opposed the Vietnam War, has been an outspoken advocate of reform within the military during his two decades-plus on Capitol Hill. He is not, however, thought to favor major cuts in military spending.

But these and other diplomatic and national security appointments -- including national security adviser, which is expected to be awarded to a longtime Clinton friend Anthony Lake, a Mount Holyoke College professor -- may come after domestic Cabinet positions, which are likely to be announced first.

Jesse Brown, executive director of the Disabled Americans Veterans, flew to Little Rock yesterday at the Clinton team's request, an aide for Mr. Brown said yesterday, and is expected to be named secretary of Veterans Affairs today. The 48-year-old former Marine, who suffered a gunshot wound to his arm in Vietnam, is a strong advocate of improved health care for veterans.

He would be the second black named to the Cabinet by Mr. Clinton, who chose Ronald H. Brown, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, to head the Commerce Department last week.

For secretary of housing and urban development, Mr. Clinton is expected to turn to Henry G. Cisneros, former mayor of San Antonio, a member of the Clinton transition board and the first Hispanic mayor of a large American city.

Mr. Cisneros, 45, a popular and dynamic four-term mayor, was considered a likely successor to Sen. Lloyd Bentsen of Texas, who was appointed treasury secretary last week. But Mr. Cisneros told reporters this week that he would not seek that Senate seat.

Looking to Capitol Hill

The president-elect is said to be looking to Capitol Hill for several other appointments, including agriculture and energy secretaries. Rep. Mike Espy of Mississippi, 39, the first black elected to Congress from his state since Reconstruction, has emerged as the front-runner for the agriculture post.

Mr. Espy was a staunch Clinton supporter during the campaign. Also mentioned as a possible contender for agriculture secretary is Ruth Harkin, a deputy counsel in the Agriculture Department in the Carter administration and wife of former presidential hopeful Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa.

Retiring senator Tim Wirth of Colorado, a Clinton campaign co-chairman, is being touted as the leading candidate for energy secretary. Mr. Wirth's pro-environmental leanings -- including his support for strengthening the Clean Air Act -- are in line with Mr. Clinton's ideas about energy policy.

Others recently mentioned for key posts include William Daley, 44, a Chicago banker and the brother of Mayor Richard Daley of Chicago. He has emerged as the front-runner for transportation secretary.

Bruce Babbitt, the former Arizona governor and 1988 presidential candidate, is said to be favored for the Interior Department. And former Gov. Richard Riley of South Carolina, now head of the transition personnel office, is said to lead the list for secretary of education.

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