President Reagan gave a vote of confidence yesterday to Health and Human Services Secretary Margaret M. Heckler, who has been a persistent target of criticism from some members of the White House staff.
"Secretary Heckler enjoys the president's full support and confidence and will continue as a valuable member of the Reagan Cabinet," said White House spokesman Larry Speakes in a written statement issued to reporters at Santa Barbara, Calif.
An administration official said that before this statement was issued, Heckler's aides were informed of the president's view in a telephone call from an assistant to White House chief of staff Donald T. Regan, who is on vacation.
Heckler has been under recurrent fire from John A. Svahn, the White House domestic policy chief and former aide to Heckler at HHS. On Thursday, a senior administration official confirmed that there is staff dissatisfaction with her and said she is "fighting for her job."
According to some officials, crit icism has intensified in recent weeks because Regan considers Heckler a weak member of the Cabinet and is also trying to find a better post for Svahn.
Heckler, in an interview with The Washington Post, said she had been fully supported by Reagan and had no intention of quitting or accepting a rumored appointment to become ambassador to Ireland.
"I work for the president," she said. "I don't work for the White House staff."