US president-elect Barack Obama is ready to name New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson as his choice for commerce secretary after passing over his former Democratic presidential rival for secretary of state.
Democratic officials said the two would appear at a news conference together in Chicago yesterday.
Richardson’s nomination as commerce secretary has been all-but-announced for several weeks.
One of the most prominent Hispanic politicians in the US, Richardson will become the latest former Democratic primary opponent to join Obama’s Cabinet. The incoming chief executive has chosen another adversary-turned-ally, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, to be his secretary of state.
An energy secretary and UN ambassador in former president Bill Clinton’s administration, Richardson was a contender for the State Department job, but Obama offered him the post as commerce secretary after choosing the former first lady as his top diplomat.
Richardson sought the Democratic presidential nomination this year. He eventually dropped out, stunning Clinton’s campaign by endorsing Obama for president and traveling to 29 states talking up her rival, especially among fellow Hispanics.
The upper echelon of Obama’s Cabinet now is in place.
Among those posts yet to be disclosed if not chosen: the heads of the Interior, Transportation, Labor, Energy, Housing and Urban Development, Education, Agriculture and Veterans Affairs departments. Obama also has yet to name his intelligence team, including his director of national intelligence and CIA chief.
Richardson, 61, boasts an extensive and wide-ranging resume.
As a seven-term congressman, he showed a knack for freelance diplomacy, rushing off to North Korea, Sudan, Cuba and Iraq on unofficial diplomatic missions. In 1995, he persuaded then Iraqi president Saddam Hussein to release two US aerospace workers who had wandered into Iraq from Kuwait. He helped free three Red Cross workers in Sudan and mediated with North Korea over the downing of two US Army helicopter pilots.
Also on Tuesday, Obama promised swift action on an economic plan to help out hard-hit states at a meeting with US governors whom he cast as his partners in crafting a recession-rebound strategy.
The spending plans and the attention focused on his Cabinet choices reflect the power Obama is already wielding as he prepares for his Jan. 20 inauguration.
“This administration does not intend to delay in getting you the help that we need,” Obama said as he met in Philadelphia with the chief executives of most states and sought to rally bipartisan support for an economic stimulus.
Incoming White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, told reporters that in a private portion of the meeting, Obama and Republican and Democratic governors agreed that the measure must include money for infrastructure as well as bureaucratic reforms to make it easier to complete programs without having to cut through piles of red tape.
The measure is expected to blend money for governors’ priorities such as health care for the poor and infrastructure with tax cuts, a temporary increase in food vouchers for the poor, as well as investments in renewable energy projects and other “green jobs” initiatives.