Obama makes picks for four posts

Thursday, December 18, 2008
Associated Press
President-elect Barack Obama, center, introduces his agriculture secretary-designate, former Iowa governor Tom Vilsack, left, and his interior secretary-designate, Sen. Ken Salazar, D-Colo., during a news conference Wednesday in Chicago.

CHICAGO -- President-elect Barack Obama intends to name former securities and exchange commissioner Mary Schapiro to head that agency and wants to install GOP Rep. Ray LaHood of Illinois as transportation secretary, Democratic officials said Wednesday.

Earlier in the day, he also named former Iowa governor Tom Vilsack as agriculture secretary and Colorado Sen. Ken Salazar to head the Interior Department.

They, like LaHood and Schapiro, need Senate confirmation before they can take their positions in the administration.

Additionally, officials disclosed that Dr. Gail Russeau, a Chicago neurosurgeon, is a leading contender to become surgeon general.

Schapiro, who currently heads a nongovernment regulatory group for securities firms, is a former head of the Commodities Futures Trading Commission and former member of the SEC.

She has been appointed to government posts by two Republicans presidents and one Democratic chief executive.Obama was expected to make her appointment official today.

It was not clear when the president-elect intended to formally announce his selection of LaHood, a 14-year veteran of the House who would become the second Republican to join the Cabinet-in-the-making.

LaHood, 63, has been at the forefront of efforts to make the floor of the House less partisan. Respected for his ability to preside, he was in the chair during most of President Bill Clinton's impeachment a decade ago.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates, whom Obama asked to remain in office, is the other Republican tapped so far for the incoming Cabinet.

The officials who described the selections of Schapiro and LaHood did so on condition of anonymity, saying they were not authorized to discuss personnel matters not yet made public. Obama introduced Vilsack and Salazar at a news conference.

Vilsack is be the fourth former presidential rival to join Obama's administration. Others include vice president-elect Joe Biden, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, who has been tapped for secretary of state, and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, selected to head the Commerce Department.

Salazar was elected to the Senate in 2004, the same year as Obama.

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