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Fri, Dec 10, 2004 - Page 12 News List

Snow agrees to stay on in US Cabinet

VALUABLE PLAYER The US president has asked the treasury secretary to continue in his post, putting to rest speculation that he would be dumped by the White House

AP , WASHINGTON

US Treasury Secretary John Snow, right, walks out of the White House in Washington on Wednesday after a meeting with US President George W. Bush.

PHOTO: AFP

US Treasury Secretary John Snow, an aggressive champion of the administration's economic policies, has accepted President George W. Bush's offer to remain in the Cabinet.

Bush's decision kept an important member of his economic team in place as the president seeks to promote his second-term priorities of simplifying tax laws and overhauling social security.

At the same time, Veterans Affairs Secretary Anthony Principi told his staff he was resigning. Principi is the ninth member of Bush's 15-person Cabinet to leave.

Rumors had swirled in the capital about Snow's future. Published reports said Bush would oust him. White House chief of staff Andy Card told Snow to ignore it all. While Snow was at the White House for a weekly meeting on Wednesday afternoon, Bush summoned him to the Oval Office to ask him to stay on.

"The president is pleased Secretary Snow agreed to continue to serve," White House spokesman Scott McClellan said on Wednesday.

"He's done a great job and has been a valuable member of the economic team, and we have a lot of important work to continue to build upon the steps we've already taken to get the economy growing stronger and creating jobs," McClellan said. "He's been an integral part of those efforts."

Bush has picked Kellogg chief executive Carlos Gutierrez to succeed Don Evans at the Commerce Department but has not settled on a replacement for Stephen Friedman, the president's chief economic adviser.

Snow, 65, is the former chief of railroad company CSX and holds a PhD in economics. McClellan said there was no limit on how long Snow would serve.

"The secretary is honored to help the president to implement his agenda to strengthen the economy," Treasury Department spokesman Rob Nichols said.

In February last year, Snow replaced Paul O'Neill, whose blunt-talking style -- and open reservations about the wisdom of large tax cuts -- irked the White House.

Snow has proved a forceful advocate of the president's economic policies, notably big tax cuts, on Wall Street and Main Street. He took the post at Treasury when the economy and the job market were struggling to recover from the 2001 recession, the Sept. 11 attacks and corporate accounting scandals.

During the 2004 presidential campaign, Snow traveled constantly, especially to the most contested states, promoting the administration's economic policies.

On some occasions, his comments had repercussions.

In a visit to Ohio near the end of the campaign, he said the notion that job losses were Bush's fault was a myth. That became fodder for a political ad for Democratic Senator John Kerry.

On a different trip to Ohio, Snow reignited the political argument about the shift of US jobs to other countries, saying that that practice was an integral part of a global trading system.

Snow's comments came against the backdrop of the loss of millions of manufacturing jobs in the US. Democrats pointed to the losses as evidence that Bush's economic policies were failing.

As treasury secretary, Snow has preached the importance of financial literacy. Yet he did not catch a more than US$10 million error in his own investment portfolio right away because he did not bother to read his financial statements for more than a year.

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