President-elect George Bush, making a final push to meet his Christmas deadline for completing his Cabinet, has scheduled an announcement for Saturday morning amid speculation that he would name his first female Cabinet secretary.
Sources close to Bush said that the president-elect plans to name a secretary of labor, a post for which he has had several women under consideration over the last three weeks. But, the sources cautioned, Bush has taken delight in fooling both aides and reporters about announcements when he can, so the plans could change."It's entirely possible that he could do both" the secretaries of labor and energy, the two remaining Cabinet posts, one senior Bush aide said. "It's possible he could wake up in the morning and decide to pull a bait and switch. He likes to keep people off balance."
In addition, Bush aides also have been searching for a federal "drug czar," a new position with Cabinet rank.
Among the women under consideration for the labor post is Patricia Diaz Dennis, a member of the Federal Communications Commission and former member of the National Labor Relations Board. Diaz Dennis, a graduate of the University of California, Los Angeles, and Loyola Law School, who has practiced in California, has been vacationing in Australia and could not be reached for comment.
Other sources said that Bush aides had been trying to persuade Elizabeth Hanford Dole, the former secretary of transportation and wife of Senate Republican Leader Bob Dole of Kansas, to take the labor post. Attempts to reach the Doles also were unsuccessful.
Earlier Friday, Bush aides had suggested that an announcement could be made during the day, but those plans were canceled. One senior aide said that the decision to schedule the unusual Christmas Eve announcement was made because of the "travel plans" of the nominee.
Another candidate who has been considered for the labor post is William J. Kilberg, a prominent Washington labor lawyer and former Department of Labor official.
Bush has said that he would like to name a woman to the Cabinet. So far, he has named no female Cabinet secretaries, though his choice for U.S. trade representative, Carla Hills, would have Cabinet status. Several men have been considered for the Department of Labor, but the leading candidates have been a series of women - some of whom, like federal personnel manager Constance Horner, have risen and fallen in the speculation as the process has continued.
Decisions on the energy post and the "drug czar," have been delayed by disagreements among Bush advisers over what sort of background the person chosen should have.
In the debate over the energy position, advocates of the oil and gas industry, who have been lobbying for former Rep. Henson Moore of Louisiana, have been pitted against those who say that the new secretary will need to concentrate first on cleaning up the nation's troubled nuclear weapons plants and reviving the dying civilian nuclear power industry.
For the drug job, a position created by the new anti-drug law that Congress passed earlier this year, some advisers have advocated "gung-ho, take charge" law enforcement official. But others, particularly those in law enforcement agencies, want a person who would coordinate existing government efforts, rather than one who would try to move in and take over.
Moore's strong lobbying effort has kept his name near the forefront of speculation for the energy post but may have hurt his chances, one Bush transition source said. "Running around saying that the oil industry is behind you is probably not the best way to get a job," he said.
California Republicans have been urging Bush to appoint Stanley Hulett, head of the state Public Utility Commission.