Bush Finalizing 2nd Term Cabinet

President Bush announces, Thursday, Dec. 9, 2004, that Ambassador to Holy See, Jim Nicholson as his new choice to replace Secretary of Veterans Affairs Anthony Principi in the Roosevelt Room of the White House. (AP Photo/Lawrence Jackson)
President Bush announced on Thursday that Jim Nicholson, former chairman of the Republican National Committee and current U.S. ambassador to the Vatican, is his choice as the next secretary of the Veterans Affairs Department.

The White House also said the Secretaries of Labor, Transportation, Housing and Interior have agreed to stay on for the second Bush term.

The White House announcement answers questions about the future of all remaining current Cabinet members. Mr. Bush still has vacancies to fill at the Energy and Health and Human Services Departments, reports CBS News Correspondent Peter Maer.

Mr. Bush spoke with the four Cabinet secretaries — Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta, Interior Secretary Gale Norton, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Alphonso Jackson and Labor Secretary Elaine Chao — to secure their decisions to remain in the Cabinet, White House press secretary Scott McClellan said.

Veterans Secretary Anthony Principi on Wednesday became the ninth member of Mr. Bush's 15-person Cabinet to leave. Nicholson, chosen to replace him, is a decorated Vietnam veteran.

"Jim Nicholson is a patriot, a man of deep conviction who has answer his country's call many times," Mr. Bush said in the brief Roosevelt Room announcement ceremony.

Nicholson stood at his side, with his wife and two of their children looking on.

"When I think of growing up dirt poor in a tenant house without plumbing and sometimes without food, I marvel at America, that the boy from Struble, Iowa, may serve in the president's Cabinet. How could this be?" Nicholson said. "For me, it is because of the opportunities my country gave me as a cadet at West Point and as a soldier. These experiences have defined my life."

The White House had announced Wednesday that Treasury Secretary John Snow would remain in his post.

Mr. Bush still must fill the top jobs at the Energy and Health and Human Services departments. White House spokesman Scott McClellan said Thursday he would not speculate on who would take those jobs

Among the names mentioned to succeed Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham are Tom Kuhn, president of Edison Electric Institute, the utility industry's trade group; Kyle McSlarrow, Abraham's deputy at Energy; former Louisiana Democratic Sen. Bennett Johnston; current Louisiana Democratic Sen. John Breaux; New Mexico Rep. Heather Wilson; and William S. Martin, who had a top post in the Energy Department under Bush's father.

Abraham announced his resignation on Nov. 15, which suggests the White House has had difficulty finding a replacement.

Medicare chief Mark McClellan, who also has served as commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration and is the brother of White House press secretary McClellan — is considered to be the top choice to replace Secretary Tommy Thompson at Health and Human Services.

The amount of changeover in Mr. Bush's Cabinet is on the high side for a second-term president. Presidents Clinton and Reagan saw seven Cabinet seats change hands after they won new terms, President Nixon nine and Presidents Truman and Johnson four each.

Mr. Bush spoke with Mineta, Chao and Norton on Wednesday. His conversation with Jackson came a couple of weeks ago, McClellan said. He did not say why the White House waited to announce the decisions to keep them on.