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Staying On: The Cabinet

Monday, December 23 1996; Page A19
The Washington Post

Last week President Clinton announced the newest members of his new domestic policy team. But seven Cabinet members from his first term are staying on. What follows is a summary of their records during Clinton's first four years.


Janet Reno

Perhaps the best-known member of the Clinton Cabinet, Reno has just weathered a somewhat embarrassing waiting period to see if she would be asked to return to office.

Her first term was marked by major breakthroughs and stunning disappointments. Reno oversaw relatively quick arrests in the Oklahoma City bombing and presided over the arrest of Unabomber suspect Theodore J. Kaczynski. But she also made the decision to storm the Branch Davidian compound near Waco, Tex., resulting in scores of deaths. The bombing that left two dead during the Atlanta Olympics remains unsolved.

Through the highs and lows, Reno's integrity has remained largely intact and she is still popular with the public, in part because of her blunt, independent style. She has sought four independent counsels to investigate the president, first lady and other prominent Cabinet officials.

Those decisions won her muted praise among administration critics and the ire of some White House aides.


Donna E. Shalala

Despite her title, Shalala did not play a key role in the Clinton administration's failed attempt to overhaul the nation's health care system. That effort was run primarily out of the White House, and as a result Shalala escaped any political damage when the proposal was roundly rejected as an attempt to create a huge new federal bureaucracy.

Shalala was much more involved in the welfare reform debate, arguing that Clinton should veto the GOP measure Congress approved in 1995. Her agency estimated that it would increase poverty. When Congress adopted a second version and Clinton signed it, Shalala defended the signature and counts as an accomplishment the added money for child care and other changes in the final version.

Shalala also deserves credit for additional funding for the National Institutes of Health and AIDS research, which has yielded promising drug treatments. In a second term, she inevitably will be drawn into any effort to tackle the financial problems of the Medicare trust fund. Her aides say she will focus her efforts on reducing teenage pregnancy and cutting smoking and drug use among young people.


Richard W. Riley

Riley has won high marks during Clinton's first term from many education groups and even some Republicans in Congress for his tempered political style and the priorities he set for a department long criticized as inefficient.

For most of the last two years, Riley has been fighting to save the department from being abolished and to protect its budget from GOP proposed cuts. He has prevailed. Last fall, Republicans even gave Education more money than it requested for some programs. One of Clinton's top education initiatives, the Goals 2000 program, which gives states grants for school reform, is expanding. Another new program, which lets students get college loans directly from the federal government instead of banks, also survived despite congressional doubts.

In the second term it will be Riley's job to help enact one of the central promises of Clinton's campaign: a $1,500 tax credit for the first two years of college to students who have at least a B average.

That proposal, like other tax deductions Clinton is seeking for college tuition, does not have universal support among higher education leaders. Some lawmakers also worry about its costs.


Dan Glickman

Glickman, who took over USDA when Secretary Mike Espy resigned, says in 1996 he oversaw a "dramatic expansion" of farm product sales overseas, a "revolutionized" meat and poultry system, stronger environmental programs and a reduced bureaucracy. But as the former congressman from Kansas knows, his sprawling department will face a number of new -- and old issues -- next year.

Aides say Glickman hopes to play a key role in the administration's effort to revise the newly created welfare system. Since the new rules eliminate eligibility for food stamps, one of USDA's biggest programs, Glickman believes USDA should have a major part in recommending any expansion of the program.

Other projects he'll face include revising the crop insurance program to focus more on paying for poor yields rather than bad weather, and more foreign sales of U.S. farm products. Glickman will get a chance to prove his ardor this spring when the European Union rules on a proposal to allow more beef imports.

Farm credit, especially for minority farmers, is likely to be revisited because of charges of discrimination and because a provision in a debt-ceiling law effectively eliminates new loans to the thousands of farmers who have defaulted on old federal loans.

Glickman will have to manage all these problems with a smaller bureaucracy and fewer regulations. USDA closed or merged 830 offices in 715 counties and eliminated 80,000 pages of forms and 61,183 management regulations last year.


Bruce Babbitt

A former Arizona governor and presidential candidate, Babbitt was as politically seasoned as almost anyone in Clinton's first Cabinet. Even so, he had a rocky first two years as landlord of the nation's parks, wildlife refuges and rangeland. Babbitt struggled to introduce a "new American land ethic" in the face of hostile western lawmakers, a White House that wavered in its support of environmentalism, and a conservation community that perhaps expected too much.

None of Babbitt's big reforms -- new grazing regulations on public lands, for example, or overhaul of the 1872 Mining Act -- passed muster with Congress. But in the second half of his first term, he whipped up strong opposition to GOP-led efforts to weaken the Endangered Species and Clean Water Acts.

Babbitt had some successes. He changed Washington's approach to enforcing the Endangered Species Act by brokering multispecies "habitat conservation plans" with industry and local and state governments. He helped develop the administration's Pacific Northwest forest plan that quieted the timber war. He moved the Bureau of Reclamation away from its dam-building role toward more conservation-oriented water policies. And he got western ranchers and environmentalists to talk about better grazing practices.

In the second term, Babbitt will still face a generally hostile Congress, so major initiatives are unlikely. He and Congress may work together on nontraditional ways to increase funding for national parks.


Robert E. Rubin

Rubin emerges as the dominant player on Clinton's economic team in the second term. Expect him to hold the president to a centrist, pro-Wall Street economic strategy that favors balanced budgets, free trade and limited federal intervention in the private sector.

The big test for Rubin this year will be helping Clinton devise a budget plan that is acceptable to conservative Republicans -- and at least a few Democrats -- in Congress while protecting Clinton policy priorities in areas such as Medicare, education, job training and the environment. Look for him to help broker a deal with Republicans on tax issues when budget negotiations close. He'll also have a big say in proposals to soften the impact of cuts in welfare spending Clinton approved last year. A native New Yorker, Rubin often expresses concern about worsening poverty and social decay in the nation's inner cities.

He also says the government should be spending more, not less, to assist developing countries and must honor its commitments to international financial institutions such as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. He is looking for corporate support for legislation on that idea.

Rubin, who gave up the Goldman Sachs co-chairmanship to join the administration, has proven to be a canny political operator. Many observers, citing his involvement in ventures from last year's budget strategy to administration efforts to bolster the Mexican peso, rank him among the nation's most effective treasury secretaries.


Jesse Brown

In an administration committed to slashing the size of government, one of Brown's biggest successes may have been his ability to win ever-larger budgets for his huge department. But Brown also managed to get the VA thinking about doing something it has not done since Lyndon B. Johnson was president: closing veterans hospitals.

The prospect of shutting some of the 171 VA hospitals during the next four years probably will be the biggest political headache he will face. Brown concedes the change is necessary as the VA moves toward more outpatient care and away from the large, massive hospitals.

Republicans have scored Brown for his partisanship and stripped his travel funds as punishment, warning that the VA will face huge budget cuts during the second Clinton administration under either White House or Republican spending plans. Brown, a combat-injured Marine who worked for the Disabled American Veterans before joining the administration, has replied that he has the president's agreement to personally review the VA's budget before imposing any huge spending cuts on the department.


Administrator, Environmental Protection Agency: Carol M. Browner

Director, Office of Management and Budget: Franklin D. Raines

Director, Office of National Drug Control Policy: Retired Gen. Barry R. McCaffrey

U.S. Trade Representative: Charlene Barshefsky (was acting trade representative)

Staff writers Paul Blustein, Clay Chandler, Tom Kenworthy, Bill McAllister, Pierre Thomas, Rene Sanchez and Barbara Vobejda contributed to this report.

© Copyright 1996 The Washington Post Company

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