President-elect George W. Bush´s cabinet appointments are staunchly pro-business. Just because the eggs have been laid, however, doesn´t mean the chickens will hatch.
A few of Bush´s choices bear out his goal to be a "unifier." Norman Mineta—President Clinton´s commerce secretary—will have widespread bipartisan support as transportation secretary. New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman should prove easier for business to work with as Environmental Protection Agency administrator than Carol M. Browner, her predecessor.Tire and auto manufacturers take comfort in White House Chief of Staff Andrew H. Card, transportation secretary in the elder Bush´s Cabinet and later a lobbyist for the auto industry.
Many of Bush´s other choices, however, are serving to mobilize Bush opponents. Business lobbyists praised Linda Chavez, nominee for labor secretary, but AFL-CIO President John Sweeney called her appointment "an insult to American working men and women."
Environmentalists note that ex-Senator Spencer Abraham, Bush´s choice for energy secretary, once sponsored a measure to eliminate the Department of Energy. They are equally angry with Gale A. Norton, interior secretary nominee and a protege of the controversial James Watt. Attorney General-designate John Ashcroft, who was solidly pro-business as a Missouri senator, is flatly being called a racist by some who oppose his stands on social issues.
With the Senate split 50-50 and a narrowed Republican majority in the House, this early polarization may hurt the new administration´s efforts to get its pro-business agenda through.
Furthermore, there are some hangover actions from the Clinton administration that make business uneasy. While the Bush administration may drop rulemaking to tighten air pollution controls on tire manufacturing plants, it has far less discretion in the final rule on ergonomics issued late last year. The best bet is for the Justice Department to simply go through the motions of defending the regulation in federal court, ensuring victory for the business interests suing to stop it.
George W. Bush has the will to help business interests. But his cabinet appointments may make it hard for him to find a way.
Moore is RPN´s Washington reporter.