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National Perspective | GOVERNMENT

Rapid-Response Plan to Plug Cabinet Holes Stalls

November 14, 1996|PAUL RICHTER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

WASHINGTON — The White House schedule for swiftly refilling its depleted Cabinet ranks showed signs of slipping Wednesday as President Clinton said that he is considering at least one candidate for secretary of State in addition to the presumed front-runner, former Sen. George J. Mitchell.

Clinton, who struggled long and visibly to fill top posts four years ago, had indicated that he hoped to announce a replacement for Warren Christopher by Friday, when the president leaves on an 11-day trip to Hawaii and Asia.

But that announcement now appears to have been postponed and officials indicated it is unlikely that new Cabinet members will be named until Clinton's return at the end of the month.

One early possibility for secretary of State, Sen. Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.), took himself out of the running. Retired Gen. Colin L. Powell said he would consider it. But his appointment could be seen as a political threat to Clinton's heir apparent, Vice President Al Gore.

The White House had given fairly strong indications that the choice would be Mitchell, whose former role as Senate majority leader would be likely to facilitate his confirmation by the GOP-controlled chamber. But Clinton told his press secretary, Mike McCurry, that " 'you're safe in saying that I'm considering at least one name I haven't seen in print anywhere,' " McCurry said.

Other known candidates include United Nations Ambassador Madeleine Albright, National Security Advisor Anthony Lake, retiring Sen. Sam Nunn (D-Ga.) and diplomat Richard Holbrooke.

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McCurry said that Clinton "didn't want to be held to any artificial timeline." The president is looking at his entire national security team, he said, and "the president is thinking of pieces that must fit together and fit together well."

The position of national security advisor has become the source of some conflict. Strobe Talbott, the deputy secretary of State and an old friend of the president, wants the job. Because of past disputes with Republicans in Congress, Talbott might find it difficult to win Senate confirmation for any Cabinet-level post.

Lake, however, has said that he wants to stay where he is.

Seven of the 14 members of Clinton's Cabinet are expected to leave, not counting Education Secretary Richard W. Riley, whose plans are unclear.

One administration official said that the candidates to replace Housing and Urban Development Secretary Henry G. Cisneros include Seattle Mayor Norman Rice and Detroit Mayor Dennis Archer.

William Daley, the Chicago lawyer who was point man in 1993 for Clinton on the North American Free Trade Agreement, is said to be in the running for the post of U.S. trade representative. Daley also has been mentioned for secretary of Transportation.

Sensitive to the outcry over campaign fund-raising this year, the White House has decided that it will allow no contribution of more than $100 to its inauguration fund.

The White House expects to raise most of the money for the inauguration from tickets to balls and related social events.

The White House announced that a 17-member transition committee will begin meeting daily to oversee the selection of Cabinet members and other top-level officials. The group will be led by Leon E. Panetta, the departing White House chief of staff, and Erskine Bowles, his successor.

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