Treasury Secretary Lloyd Bentsen plans to resign his Cabinet post early next year, costing the Clinton administration one of its most respected senior policy-makers, administration officials said Monday.
The officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that Bentsen, 73, wanted to return to Texas to go into business.A precise date for the resignation has not been decided, the officials said. They said that Bentsen wished to discuss the question of timing with President Clinton.
In Budapest, where Clinton was attending an economic security conference, White House spokeswoman Dee Dee Myers would only say: "Secretary Bentsen will make any decisions . . . and any announcements about his future himself."
Bentsen's decision to resign was first reported by the Wall Street Journal, although it has been speculated upon for months.
Bentsen has been telling associates for more than a year that he planned to leave before the end of Clinton's first term.
But his value to the administration appeared enhanced with the Nov. 8 GOP landslide in Congress, because of his past cordial relations with some of the Republicans who will take over in January.
However, the officials said Monday, Bentsen felt that this was a good time to bow out with last week's congressional passage of a new world trade agreement, a project on which Bentsen had devoted considerable energy in recent days.
He is also able to claim credit for successes with interstate banking legislation and with last year's free-trade pact with Mexico and deficit reduction legislation.
First elected to the House in 1948 and to the Senate in 1970, Bentsen was Clinton's first Cabinet choice as a reassuring senior economic policymaker. Bentsen ran unsuccessfully for the presidency in 1976 and was the Democratic nominee for vice president in 1988.
The Wall Street Journal said speculation on a successor centers on Robert Rubin, 57, the head of Clinton's National Economic Council and the former co-chief of Goldman, Sachs & Co.