Focus on Obama Cabinet Possibilities

Published on: 09:32AM Dec 09, 2008

via a special arrangement with Informa Economics, Inc.

New name surfaces for USDA spot, but Salazar appears to be leading candidate

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Here is an update on the outlook for President-elect Barack Obama's Cabinet and other top positions:

-- Liberals upset. The Politico reported that liberals "are growing increasingly nervous – and some just flat-out angry – that President-elect Barack Obama seems to be stiffing them on Cabinet jobs and policy choices."

-- Transportation. House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman James Oberstar (D-Minn.) said he has spoken informally with the incoming administration of President-elect Barack Obama about becoming Transportation secretary, but he added that he has reservations about the job and is unlikely to leave Congress.

-- Interior. Several Democratic liberal groups are urging the top Interior job go to Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.). Other possibilities include Rep. Mike Thompson (D-Calif.) and Kevin Gover, director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian, and the Interior Department’s assistant secretary for Indian affairs during the Clinton administration.

-- USDA. A new name has surfaced as a possibility for Obama's USDA Secretary, Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.). However, the names most mentioned continue to be Reps. John Salazar (D-Colo.) and Sanford Bishop (D-Ga.). In a Reuters report on Monday, Salazar described himself a "a real long shot" for USDA secretary, telling Reuters that his name has been submitted for consideration. Salazar said he has spoken to the Obama transition team. "It's a long process," he said, and he did not know where he stood with the team. He said he was not pushing for the nomination (translation: offer it and he will take it).

Some agriculture and crop insurance lobbyists wrote a recent letter pushing Salazar for the USDA position. The letter was sent to Rahm Emanuel, Obama's chief of staff. It was sent by the American Association of Crop Insurers, American Sheep Industry, Colorado Cattlemen’s Association, Colorado Livestock Association, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, Public Lands Council, United Egg Producers, and the Western Peanut Growers Association

-- EPA. Two names continue to be the most frequently mentioned to lead the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA): Lisa P. Jackson of New Jersey and Mary Nichols of California. Jackson recently came under attack from an environmental advocacy group, with the head of the organization saying her track record should disqualify her from serving as the next EPA administrator. Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) released a letter to Obama that concluded "the decisions, rulings, and actions produced under Jackson's administration at [the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection] have been nothing short of appalling." PEER describes itself as a national nonprofit alliance of local, state, and federal scientists, law enforcement officers, land managers, and other professionals. The letter criticized Jackson for failing to establish priorities for cleaning up 16,000 listed hazardous waste sites.

-- Energy. The name most commonly mentioned as a new White House energy or climate czar is Carol Browner, who headed the EPA during the Clinton administration. Among the likely contenders for Energy is Dan Reicher, who runs the Energy and Climate office for the philanthropic arm of Google, and served as assistant secretary of Energy in the Clinton administration. Another name being mentioned is Steven Chu, the Nobel prize-winning director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, a government lab in California that focuses on renewable and alternative energy. CQ Politics reported that the Obama transition team is also considering “someone really amazing” for Energy — possibly a very high-profile public figure, who would help elevate the profile of the agency and energy policy with a shot of star power. Such speculation has focused on California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger , a Republican, or former Vice President Al Gore, who is expected to meet today with Obama to discuss energy and climate change issues. Gore has indicated, however, that he has little interest in a Cabinet position.


NOTE: This column is copyrighted material, therefore reproduction or retransmission is prohibited under U.S. copyright laws.