Bush’s HHS Secretary Choices Rumored
With the President-elect George W. Bush and Vice President-elect Dick Cheney working to assemble a cabinet "as quickly as possible," rumors are circulating about who will become the next HHS secretary, the
Baltimore Sun reports. Among the names mentioned are Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson (R), who is also under consideration to head the Education Department (Bowman, Baltimore Sun, 12/15). Also rumored is Kay James, a "social conservative" who was secretary of Virginia's HHS and HHS assistant secretary in the previous Bush administration. Dr. William Roper, dean of University of North Carolina's School of Public Health and head of the CDC under former President George Bush, is also being considered. The New York Times reports that the HHS secretary post is one of two cabinet positions conservatives are "most concerned" about. Marshall Wittmann, senior fellow at the Hudson Institute and "longtime conservative activist," predicted that Bush would select a "pro-life" HHS secretary. "The Austin Hippocratic oath is 'do not enrage conservatives,' so HHS will have to be pro-life," Wittmann said (Toner, New York Times, 12/15).
Meanwhile, in Bush's "first public overture to a Democrat," he plans to meet today with Sen. John Breaux (D-La.) to discuss a potential cabinet position, the Wall Street Journal reports. Although Breaux has been frequently rumored as a possible cabinet member, the paper reports that Republicans have advised Bush to have the "crafty Cajun" lead a new bipartisan commission on overhauling Medicare and implementing a prescription drug benefit. Bush advisors said Breaux, a "leading Democratic centrist" and member of the Finance Committee, which handles Medicare, Social Security and taxes, would be "more valuable ... as an ally in the Senate than in the cabinet" (Calmes, Wall Street Journal, 12/15). A New York Times
>editorial writes, "If Mr. Bush does not choose Sen. Breaux for his cabinet, he would do well to ask his help in forging a new consensus to introduce more choice and competition in the Medicare system, without eroding care for the elderly poor." A Breaux cabinet appointment would upset the 50-50 tie in the new Senate, as Louisiana's Republican governor would most likely appoint a Republican replacement for Breaux (Baltimore Sun, 12/5). Breaux publicly "indicated" last week that he would not take a cabinet post under Bush (Wall Street Journal, 12/15). Officials said that in today's meeting, Breaux is likely to promote former Louisiana Sen. J. Bennett Johnston (D) for a cabinet position, and also offer "some ideas about reforming Medicare" (Baltimore Sun, 12/15).