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Reagan Picks Feisty Official to Follow Dole : Deputy Secretary Has Clashed With Senators on Safety

October 08, 1987|Associated Press

WASHINGTON — President Reagan today nominated James H. Burnley IV, a federal transportation official who has clashed with senators about aviation safety, to succeed Elizabeth Hanford Dole as secretary of transportation.

Reagan praised Burnley's "longstanding interest in and grasp of public policy."

In a speech to Transportation Department employees gathered in the Rose Garden, Reagan also announced that he is nominating Mimi Dawson, a former congressional staff member who has been a member of the Federal Communications Commission since 1981, to succeed Burnley as deputy secretary of transportation.

Both nominations must be approved by the Senate.

Drew Lewis, Reagan's first secretary of transportation and now chairman and chief executive officer of Union Pacific Corp., praised the nomination of Burnley, who has been deputy secretary since 1983.

"Jim is a strong deregulator with a commitment to rebuild America's infrastructure," Lewis said. "Jim has demonstrated his commitment to those areas as well as safety and all modes of transportation."

The position has been vacant since Dole, wife of Senate Republican leader Bob Dole, left to campaign full time for her husband for the GOP presidential nomination. Her final day on the job was last Thursday.

Burnley has been accused by his critics of having too confrontational a style in dealing with Congress.

On a CBS News "Face the Nation" broadcast in May, he said critics of the Administration's policies on aviation safety were talking "gibberish and nonsense" and frightening air travelers with "loose, quick, glib" comments.

Burnley made the comments while appearing on the program with Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg (D-N.J.), chairman of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on transportation and one of the critics of the Administration's policies.

Lautenberg talked with Burnley last week in a meeting arranged by White House Chief of Staff Howard H. Baker Jr.

After that meeting, Lautenberg said: "The complaints lie largely in his ability to deal with Congress, to deal with the committees of jurisdiction and that he had universally gotten several people very angry at his hostility. I mentioned that to him.

"He was very contrite and said that he recognized that had been a weakness but was prepared to come out and do what he had to do. He's very bright. He seems to understand the issues very well. I still have reservations, but I'm thinking about it."

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