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More Bush Cabinet Announcements Expected as Early as Friday

Aired December 21, 2000 - 1:17 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: George W. Bush now is officially unemployed. In a ceremony this morning, in Austin, Texas, he gave up his job as governor of Texas so he can accept a promotion in Washington. He will be replaced by the Texas lieutenant governor and fellow Republican, Rick Perry, who will be sworn in as governor later today. The next president of the United States says he will miss the Texas capitol, but he's looking forward to his new assignment.

Literally thousands of people will take on new assignments in the new administration. Most of them will go unnoticed by the outside world, but the Cabinet choices are big news, and more choices are on the way.

CNN's Kelly Wallace now joins us now from Austin, with the latest on the transition -- Kelly.

KELLY WALLACE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, hi there, Lou.

We don't expect any announcements on this day, but we could expect more to come as early as Friday. Mr. Bush is working with his aides, trying to narrow down decisions and fill posts in his Cabinet. Just yesterday, he announced four nominees for Cabinet positions.

He's looking in a variety of directions. He's looking for people who have government experience, who've worked in prior administrations; he's looking to build a diverse Cabinet, appointing minorities and women, and he is also looking at some of his fellow Republican governors.

And CNN has learned that Mr. Bush is poised to name Republican Governor Christie Whitman of New Jersey to be administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. And that announcement could come as early as Friday. She has been New Jersey's governor since 1994, she is the first female governor of New Jersey, she is viewed as a moderate, she is someone who supports abortion rights -- conservatives not a big fan of hers, but they may not object because this agency, the Environmental Protection Agency, does not handle abortion-related issues.

Another Republican governor: Tommy Thompson of Wisconsin looks to be a sure bet for the Department of Health and Human Service. He is the nation's longest serving governor: he has been governor of Wisconsin since 1986. He is a big advocate and a leader when it comes to welfare reform, and his position on abortion -- he is actually an opponent of abortion rights. Conservatives would very much like this pick, many conservatives believing that Mr. Bush has so far chosen too many moderates in his Cabinet.

Another Republican governor who appears to be on the who's out list: That's Governor Marc Racicot of Montana. He looked to be a possible leading contender for attorney general, but he, in a meeting with Mr. Bush yesterday, said he did not want to be considered for the job.

Again, no announcements expected today, but we could get more as early as Friday.

Lou, back to you.

WATERS: Kelly, it's been characterized as a bump in the road in a relatively smooth transition: Do we know anything more about the reason why Governor Racicot declined?

WALLACE: We don't, and it's quite interesting -- basically, a spokesperson saying that he decided he did not want to be considered for the job for family considerations -- he is a governor in Montana -- basically, citing that this is not the right time for him and his family to go on and move to Washington to have high-level Cabinet post. But it was a little bit surprising: He has been a big booster of Mr. Bush's; he was also a leading spokesperson during the whole Florida recount effort in Tallahassee. So he was viewed as definite pick for a Bush administration, it was a question of what the position would be -- Lou.

WATERS: Yes, I guess it's just tough sometimes to accept a professional person's wish to spend more time with the family.

Kelly Wallace, in Austin, Texas, today.

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