Cabinet Picks Quickly Confirmed

best powell bush after announcement of powell as sec of state
Hours after President Bush took the oath of office, the Senate on Saturday confirmed seven of his Cabinet nominees.

Senators gave their approval in a single voice vote and with almost no debate during a rare Saturday session.

Among those to win lawmakers' approval were Colin Powell, 63, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to become secretary of state; former Alcoa Inc. Chairman Paul O'Neill, 65, to be treasury secretary, and Donald Rumsfeld, 68, to be defense secretary, a post he also held a quarter-century ago under President Ford.

Also confirmed were Houston schools chief Rod Paige, 67, to be education secretary; former Sen. Spencer Abraham, R-Mich., 48, for energy secretary; oilman and Bush confidant Donald Evans, 54, to head the Commerce Department, and Ann Veneman, 51, to be chief of the Agriculture Department, where she was deputy secretary from 1986-1993.

In a session that lasted 13 minutes, the only objection to the nominees was voiced by Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev. Reid said he opposed Abraham's nomination because as a senator, Abraham had voted repeatedly in favor of a plan, opposed by Reid, to ship nuclear waste to the Yucca Mountain site in Nevada. A final decision on using that site is due by the Bush administration this spring.

Reid said Abraham's record "leads me to believe that he may not be capable of such impartiality on the issue."

The nominees approved Saturday were among Bush's least controversial picks.

Some of Bush's more contentious selections will have to wait until at least next week. These include Gale Norton, the former Colorado state attorney general, for interior secretary, and former Sen. John Ashcroft, R-Mo., the attorney general.

"I would hope that by the end of next week, if possible, all of the nominees could be confirmed," Senate Republican Leader Trent Lott of Mississippi said Friday.

The early flurry of confirmations mirrored the Senate's action in January 1993, when President Clinton first took office.

On Jan. 20 of that year, the day Mr. Clinton was sworn in, the Senate approved Warren Christopher as secretary of state, Les Aspin as defense secretary, and Lloyd Bentsen to be treasury secretary.

The next day, the Senate confirmed 13 other top Clinton aides.

This year, the Senate will take Sunday off but be back in action on Monday.

At least one senator missed Saturday's votes, which were the first of the new 107th Congress.

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., chose to perform her role as first lady one last time, accompanying her husband back to their home in Chappaqua, N.Y., for his first day as former president.