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CNN Today

Transition of Power: Bush Announces Four More Cabinet Choices

Aired December 29, 2000 - 1:31 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: The Bush administration continues to take shape in Washington. CNN's senior White House correspondent John King is following along. He joins us now live.

John, what does it look like today?

JOHN KING, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Lou, four more picks today, four more Cabinet choices from President-elect George W. Bush. These four primarily with a focus on domestic policy. And the key agenda items the new president will push shortly after he takes office on January 20th, now less than a month away.

Let's look at the four picks announced today. First, Tommy Thompson, he is the nation's longest serving governor, the governor of Wisconsin these past 14 years. He is a conservative foe of abortion. He will be the pick for the Department of Health and Human Services. That department at the center of many of the coming debates over Social Security reform, prescription drug coverage for the elderly, and other heath care issues.

President-elect Bush turning to a fellow governor with executive management experience to lead one of the nation's biggest and most important federal departments.

At the Department of Education, Rod Paige, currently the superintendent of schools in Houston, Texas; that is the seventh largest school district in the United States. Another pick made with a coming congressional debate in mind. Many Democrats oppose school vouchers, using taxpayer money to allow parents to take their children out of the public schools and send them to private schools. Democrats oppose that, saying it will destroy inner-city public education. Mr. Paige will make the case: No it doesn't. That he has used the voucher program, and supported charter schools in Houston, Texas with some success.

Next up, Anthony Principi. He is a Vietnam combat veteran. He was the number two at the Department of Veterans Affairs under President Bush back in the early 1990s. He will be the number-one now, if confirmed by the Senate, in George W. Bush's -- excuse me -- administration. His main task, we were told today, to reform the Veterans' health care programs.

And lastly, Gale Norton, a former two-term attorney general in the state of Colorado, a law and order conservative, but a supporter of abortion rights. She will be the choice at the Interior Department. Note that, just like Christie Whitman, the governor of New Jersey, who will head the EPA under the Bush administration, a woman supporter of abortion rights put at a Cabinet agency that has no direct role in social policy.

If there is a controversial pick among the four announced today, it could well be Norton. Environmental groups critical of her as attorney general in Colorado. She was very critical of what she views as a heavy-handed approach by the Environmental Protection Agency, and Washington in general, to environmental and land management issues. And, like the president-elect, she supports drilling for oil in the Arctic Wildlife Refuge.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GALE NORTON, INTERIOR SECRETARY NOMINEE: The belief is that there are huge amounts of oil available in that area. That is an issue, again, that I cannot comment on, in terms of my own actions on that. But I do support the president in the positions that he has taken during his campaign.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: That position, of course, was to advocate at least limited oil exploration, that will be a big debate in the coming Congress and between the new administration and the environmental groups.

The president-elect headed home to Texas for the New Year's holiday. After making those announcements today, three more Cabinet picks to come. The Department of Labor, among them, Transportation and Energy as well. Mr. Bush promising to make those picks by the end of next week -- Lou.

WATERS: All right, John King, senior White House correspondent.

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