President-elect George W. Bush was expected to make his first cabinet appointments Saturday, as he sought to make up time lost during the protracted battle for the White House.
Among the key appointments, Bush was expected to name retired General Colin Powell to the position of secretary of state, although he demurred Friday when asked pointedly whether Powell would be named to the post.
"I would ask that folks wait till tomorrow when I name the person," Bush said.
"I look forward to making the announcement tomorrow. I hope you'll come," said Bush after a meeting in Austin with another major political figure in Washington, Democratic Senator John Breaux of Louisiana.
The meeting with Breaux -- mentioned as a possible member of a bipartisan cabinet -- was a symbolic effort to heal the country's political rift after a bruising 36-day feud over the Florida vote count.
Bush said he had "a great discussion" over lunch with Breaux.
The meeting, however, put an end to rumors that Breaux was about to join his administration, after the moderate Democratic senator made it clear he intended to stay in his present job.
For Breaux, leaving the Senate would have been tantamount to handing a slim majority to the Republicans there, as the Louisiana governor empowered to name his replacement belongs to the president-elect's party.
Breaux's refusal to join Bush's cabinet undoubtedly will not end Bush's quest to buttress his narrow margin of victory in last month's election by reaching across party lines to staff his administration.
The Republican Texas governor meanwhile offered more conciliatory comments about his opponent in the November 7 election, Vice President Al Gore, who formally conceded Wednesday.
"I felt Vice President Gore was most gracious in his comments," Bush said. "I thought he gave a really good speech ... He set the tone for what I thought was an important night for America."
Bush added that he was eager to take the reins of power in Washington.
"The great responsibilities of the job are very evident," he said.
I can't tell you how excited I am about getting to Washington; about how enthused I am about the opportunities, not only to work with members of the Senate and House, but to work with other world leaders to make the world more peaceful. And I am so grateful and humbled by the opportunity."
With the US stock market taking another dive Friday, Bush said the economy could be a concern.
But high energy prices are of greater concern, the president-elect argued, reiterating his campaign mantra about the need for a national energy policy that increases the supply of energy as well as more efficient fiscal policies to attract investment.
"I think we've got to be worried about the ability for the country to continue to attract foreign capital, to make sure the economy continues to expand," he said.
Meanwhile, the Bush transition team announced it had received more than 25,000 resumes from those wishing to serve in the new Republican administration.
The Bush team will have to fill more than 6,500 positions being vacated by appointees of the Clinton administration.
More than 1,000 of those will require Senate confirmation, not to mention an exhaustive background check by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
The president-elect was to host a Christmas party in Austin late Friday before heading to his ranch Saturday. He is due to travel to Washington Sunday, an aide said.
Bush is due to meet with President Bill Clinton and Gore next week to discuss the handover of power after the most protracted and divisive election in modern US history.
On Monday Bush is scheduled to meet in Washington with Republican and Democratic congressional leaders.
Bush faces a divided Congress, with the new senate evenly split and only a slight Republican majority in the House of Representatives, giving him a choice between pursuing a bipartisan agenda or legislative gridlock.
"Bipartisanship isn't an option any more. It is a requirement," said Senator Tom Daschle, the Democratic minority leader from South Dakota. "We must govern from the middle or we will not be able to govern at all."
Bush is to be formally elected Monday by the 538-member Electoral College, where he holds 271 votes, one more than the 270 needed to win the presidency.
Gore won the overall popular vote by more than 300,000 ballots but lost Florida, and its 25 crucial electoral votes, by 537 votes, leaving him with 267 votes in the Electoral College.
Since the resolution of the election impasse, congratulations for Bush have poured in from leaders around the world who noted the challenges that await the new Republican administration in the Middle East, Asia and Europe -- AUSTIN (AFP)
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)