Agriculture, Business And Financial Affairs: Potential GOP Targets

By Jerry Hagstrom, Margaret Kriz, Julie Kosterlitz, National Journal, and Ben Wildavsky

November 16, 1996

AGRICULTURE DEPARTMENT

Agriculture Secretary Glickman has his job as long as he wants it. Just under two years in the post, Glickman, a former Democratic House Member from Kansas, has put down deep roots.

Unlike his boss in the Oval Office, he's extremely popular in the Farmbelt. Glickman has already said that he will attempt to make the most of his standing and push Congress to modify the 1996 Freedom to Farm bill that Clinton said he signed ``with reluctance'' because it leaves farmers without a safety net when prices bottom out.

In a Nov. 7 speech in Washington, Glickman said that, among other changes, he would ask Congress to loosen the new law's restrictions that, he said, can deny creditworthy farmers access to government-backed farm assistance. Noting that many farmers fret about being able to hold their own in the international marketplace, Glickman said his department will develop new risk management tools to help farmers stabilize their income in the new global economy.

Meanwhile, running a sprawling department that's often cited as a model of bureaucratic inefficiency will be a challenge.

Ellen Haas, the undersecretary for food, nutrition and consumer services who is responsible for the food stamp and other nutrition programs, has come under fire from critics on and off Capitol Hill. Congressional Republicans have complained about her management practices. School lunch advocates assert that she focuses too much on the goal of reducing fat in children's diets at the expense of other priority issues.

The U.S. Forest Service, which manages millions of acres of federal land and has more employees than any other Agriculture Department division, will continue to cause Glickman headaches. Timber companies and environmental activists have been virtually at war in the Pacific Northwest. Jack Ward Thomas, chief of the Forest Service, announced shortly before Election Day that he planned to step down. Separately, undersecretary for farm and foreign agricultural services Eugene Moos has said he's leaving. Glickman has asked his own deputy, Richard E. Rominger, a California farmer, to stay on the job.

COMMERCE DEPARTMENT

There wasn't nearly as much talk of dismantling the Commerce Department in the second year of the 104th Congress as there was in the first. And congressional Republicans are presumably even less likely to target the behemoth agency as the new Congress gets under way. Still, the fund-raising activities of former Commerce official John Huang could keep the department's activities--in particular its foreign trade missions--under close scrutiny.

A possible successor to outgoing Secretary Kantor is Chicago lawyer and Democratic operative William M. Daley (the Chicago mayor's younger brother), who's also talked about as a candidate for other Cabinet positions. Another possibility: former White House chief of staff Thomas F. (Mack) McLarty III, whose name has long been mentioned for the Commerce job. McLarty helped organize the 1994 Summit of the Americas in Miami. ``He has an awfully good relationship with the business community,'' a lawyer who's close to the Administration said.

Commerce undersecretary for international trade Stuart E. Eizenstat might seem to be a logical candidate for promotion. But despite his substantial trade expertise and years of government service, he's clashed with Kantor, whose views are likely to influence the President. Other names in play for the Commerce slot include Rep. Bill Richardson, D-N.M., and Democratic fund raiser Terence R. McAuliffe.

ENERGY DEPARTMENT

As the Administration weighs possible successors to Energy Secretary O'Leary, one of the trickiest questions is whether Republican conservatives in Congress will renew their crusade to dismantle her department. ``If Clinton wants to keep the department, he needs someone up there in a position to defend it,'' a well-placed energy industry lobbyist said. If the President is not enthusiastic about retaining the department, the lobbyist continued, he may delay nominating a replacement for O'Leary.

Industry insiders and some Members of Congress would like to see deputy secretary Charles B. Curtis get the top job. Curtis's resume includes a stint as chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and as a Capitol Hill staff specialist on energy issues.

Others being mentioned for the job include former White House chief of staff McLarty; Rep. Richardson; Colorado Gov. Romer and Timothy E. Wirth, the State Department's undersecretary for global affairs. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator Carol Browner, whose name has also been floated for the post, has told associates that she doesn't want the Energy job.

Almost from the start, O'Leary made clear her intent to leave after four years. But even if she hadn't, White House officials would certainly have pushed her toward the door. During her first two years, O'Leary, the first black woman to hold the top Energy job, was praised for permitting public access to department files on secret radiation testing conducted by the Atomic Energy Commission during the Cold War. But for much of the past two years, sparks have been flying. The department has been frequently zapped for spending millions on questionable international trade missions and for hiring a public relations consulting firm to identify its ``enemies.''

Assuming it remains open for business, the department will soon be squarely in the middle of a building political and policy struggle over competition in America's electric utility industry. The next two years will also be a critical time for the nation's nuclear waste disposal program. Under a July court ruling, the federal government has until 1998 to take possession of the commercial nuclear waste now piling up at 110 nuclear power plants; a repository under construction in the Nevada desert won't be completed by then.

LABOR DEPARTMENT

He loved the job, and the public image that came with it--the little guy standing up for the little guy. But after a year of commuting to Boston, where his wife and their two teenagers live, Labor Secretary Reich has decided to take permanent family leave to enjoy his sons' last years at home. ``You can't make an appointment with a teenager,'' he said in an interview. He plans to serve through the January inauguration.

He'll be a tough act to follow. During his tenure, Reich effectively converted his department from a parochial backwater for a dwindling interest group into a bully pulpit for articulating the concerns of downwardly mobile workers.

Centrists in the Administration ground their teeth when the liberal former Harvard professor lectured big business about its social responsibilities, and deficit hawks nixed his plan for using payroll taxes to pay for worker training. But Reich proved his value to the President, an old friend and fellow Rhodes scholar, by gaining loyalty from labor unions initially wary of the Administration, winning a few key legislative battles--chiefly the minimum-wage hike--and by supplying Clinton with some of the popular education themes and programs of his campaign for a second term.

Possible replacements include White House director of public liaison Alexis M. Herman, a former director of the Labor Department's Women's Bureau, and former Sen. Harris Wofford, D-Pa., former Pennsylvania labor commissioner who now heads the federal AmeriCorps program.

But the same rumor mill contends that Herman, who has developed better ties to the business community than to unions, may not be Cabinet material and is needed where she is. Wofford's old-guard liberal credentials may not help the President redefine himself as the centrist for the 21st century.

Whatever else Reich's successor chooses to do, he or she will be charged with trying to shepherd through the Congress some of the President's already-announced initiatives. These include the option of compensatory time instead of overtime pay for hourly workers; expanded family and parental leave to allow parents to attend a child's school conferences or doctor's appointments; a health insurance program for the unemployed; and college tuition tax subsidies. The Labor Secretary will also co-chair the President's announced council on health care quality and consumer protection.

TRANSPORTATION DEPARTMENT

With the departure of Transportation Secretary Pena, the front-runner for the job is probably Chicago lawyer Daley, who came close to getting the slot in Clinton's first term. Other possibilities include Rodney E. Slater, head of the Federal Highway Administration and an old Arkansas buddy of Clinton's who once ran the Arkansas Highway Commission; former Virginia governor Gerald Baliles, who headed the President's 1993 Commission for a Safe and Competitive Airline Industry and has also lobbied heavily on behalf of U.S. airlines seeking access to routes to Japan; former U.S. Ambassador to Canada James J. Blanchard; and Acting U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Charlene Barshefsky.

Several other Transportation Department seats will need to be filled as well. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) chief David R. Hinson has announced that he's stepping down. His deputy, Linda Hall Daschle (wife of Senate Minority Leader Thomas A. Daschle, D-S.D.) will serve as acting administrator, but she reportedly doesn't intend to stay around either.

Whoever ends up in the top Transportation slot is likely to be busy. The so-called ISTEA (pronounced iced tea) bill (the 1991 Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act, which determines how federal transportation money is doled out) is up for reauthorization. Thorny international aviation disputes with Great Britain and Japan also remain to be resolved, not to mention a trucking fight with Mexico. At the FAA, one of the biggest issues facing the agency will very likely be its own finances: The White House is pushing to finance the agency's activities through a new user fee.

U.S. TRADE REPRESENTATIVE'S OFFICE

There's still a question mark over Barshefsky's future. A stalwart of the Washington trade bar, she is widely admired by Democrats and Republicans alike as a tough negotiator with a formidable grasp of trade policy. But her past legal work for the Canadian government, depending on how it is interpreted, may fall afoul of a new lobbying law that bars anyone who's represented foreign governments in trade disputes with the United States from top trade posts.

The latest indications are that Barshefsky would like to stay and that the Administration will send her nomination to the Senate Finance Committee. The White House may argue that Barshefsky isn't covered by the law because the case in which she advised the Canadian government wasn't really a trade dispute. It was a countervailing duty case, involving allegations of unfair government subsidies to the Canadian timber industry, in which the U.S. Commerce Department is--at least on paper--supposed to play a quasi-judicial rather than an adversary role.

But although Finance Committee chairman William V. Roth Jr., R-Del., is likely to give Barshefsky a sympathetic reception, some of her boosters fear that the case in her favor, while maybe legally valid, risks sounding like an effort to circumvent the broad and untested new lobbying law. In the post-John Huang era, some trade hands worry that the knives will be out on Capitol Hill for any policy or personnel decisions that raise the specter of foreign influence in U.S. decision making.

If Barshefsky doesn't get the nod (there's talk she might end up as Transportation Secretary), Chicago's Daley is a strong possibility. Daley helped the Administration pass the North American Free Trade Agreement and has provided valuable political support in Illinois. ``He's probably owed more than anybody,'' a trade lobbyist said. Other names being floated for the top trade job: deputy national security adviser Samuel R. (Sandy) Berger and former Oklahoma Rep. and U.S. Ambassador to Mexico James R. Jones.

Robert D. Kyle, a trade specialist with a joint appointment at the National Economic Council and the National Security Council (NEC), is being mentioned as a potential deputy USTR. ``He's a strong candidate for any sub-Cabinet job in the international economic area,'' including slots at Treasury or Commerce, an Administration source said.

The immediate issue facing the next USTR will be extending ``fast-track'' trade negotiating authority. After that--and looming larger than any other trade issue--will be the question of trade relations with China.


By Jerry Hagstrom, Margaret Kriz, Julie Kosterlitz, National Journal, and Ben Wildavsky

November 16, 1996

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