A Smoother Road for New Labor Nominee?

  • Share
  • Read Later

President-elect Bush embraces his new labor secretary nominee, Elaine Chao

Determined to avoid any persistent gaps in his Cabinet seating chart, George W. Bush wasted no time replacing Linda Chavez as his nominee for labor secretary.

Thursday, less than 48 hours after Chavez withdrew from consideration under a firestorm of allegations that she'd harbored an illegal immigrant, the President-elect named Elaine Chao as his new nominee to head the Labor Department. Bush also announced Robert Zoellick, a veteran of Republican State and Treasury Departments, as his nominee for the post of U.S. trade representative, also a Cabinet position.

Chao, wife of Kentucky senator Mitch McConnell, is the former director of the Peace Corps and a fellow at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank in Washington. She also served as deputy secretary of transportation under former President Bush.

If confirmed, Chao will, in Bush's words, "bring great compassion and a commitment to helping people build better lives" to her Cabinet post. And few doubt Chao will, in fact, take office. Even before she was officially nominated, Republican senators were promoting her candidacy far and wide. "I support Elaine Chao," Tennessee's Bill Frist told reporters Wednesday. "She would certainly be confirmed." Some even call Chao's relative inexperience in the labor arena an asset for the Bush team — sometimes during the confirmation process the only good record is no record at all.

Chao, who is not shy about her conservative ideology, may be helped through the confirmation three-ring circus by the fact that the labor and civil rights groups so vehemently opposed to Chavez's nomination have now focused their attention on Bush's attorney general–designate, John Ashcroft.