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CNN Today

The Bush Presidency: HHS, Transportation Chiefs Confirmed; Senate Panel Delays Vote on Ashcroft

Aired January 24, 2001 - 2:10 p.m. ET

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

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: The president's choice for education secretary was sworn in less than an hour ago. Perhaps you saw it right here. Rod Paige took the oath in a ceremony at the Education Department. Mr. Bush praised Paige as champion of reform and said his appointment heralds the beginning of a new era in public education. Paige had previously worked as superintendent of the Houston Independent School District.

While one controversial Bush nominee gets the green light, another stalls.

CNN's Bob Franken is keeping watch on Capitol Hill.

Bob, what's the latest?

BOB FRANKEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Natalie, I'll tell you what, before we get to the various confirmations and all that, I want to show you something I think a lot of people are going to find interesting that's going on right now on the Senate floor. If you look closely, the person who is sitting as the chair in the Senate is none other than the new senator from New York, Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton. She is, in fact, she is the person who, when the other senators refer to her, refer to her as Madame President. Ponder that one.

Meanwhile on the Senate floor, there is a new person who can be called secretary of health and human services. And now, Natalie, we have to come back.

ALLEN: Bob, sorry we have to interrupt. We want to take you live, quickly, to El Paso County. The Sheriff's Department is holding a briefing about the Texas fugitives in Colorado.

(INTERRUPTED BY COVERAGE OF A LIVE EVENT)

ALLEN: We'll go back now to CNN's Bob Franken, ask him to back up and start all over again, Bob, with the confirmations. Who's in, who's out and who's waiting?

FRANKEN: Well, who is in is Tommy Thompson, governor of Wisconsin, a man who has always caused controversy in his home state of Wisconsin. He's no longer the governor, of course, he's now the head of the Health and Human Services Department, secretary of health and human services, a department that is a massive department which is involved in virtually all of the social programs in the United States.

Also confirmed, Norm Mineta. That no surprise. Norm Mineta, of course, transportation secretary, was commerce secretary in the Clinton administration. We're expecting confirmation today of Elaine Chao as secretary of labor. That one's an easy one too. She's highly respected in Washington, also happens to be the wife of one of the Republican senators, Mitch McConnell.

And a possible confirmation today of Christine Whitman, former governor of New Jersey, who is easily expected to be confirmed as the head of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Now, another easy one, it seems, is Gale Norton, which is a bit of a surprise. She, of course, caused quite an uproar among many people in the environmental community with her appointment. But she has sailed quite quickly through the committee in the Senate that was dealing with her. She had a very successful group of hearings last week. And today, the members of the committee voted 18-2 to confirm her and to pass that recommendation on to the Senate. So that controversy evaporates.

But the one that is still stirring around is the controversy over John Ashcroft and his nomination to be the new attorney general. As you know, there were some very contentious hearings last week. The various groups that are progressive or liberal constituency groups are up in arms over his various decisions. There was supposed to be a hearing today to decide whether the committee would approve him, but Democrats used a procedural way to block those hearings until next week. They're still trying to see if they can cause some sort of uproar among people around the country to put an end to any chances of Ashcroft's being confirmed.

Right now, it looks like he will be confirmed in spite of all that controversy, but they wanted one more week to see if they could stop it -- Natalie.

ALLEN: All right, then we'll wait and see what happens there. Bob Franken on Capitol Hill, thanks.

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