Rumors of Mineta's resignation proved false

Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta and Labor Secretary Elaine L. Chao will remain in their Cabinet posts in President Bush's second term, a White House spokesman said. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Alphonso Jackson and Interior Dept. chief Gale Norton also will stay on, White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan said at a Dec. 9 morning press gathering.

"The President is pleased that each of these individuals has agreed to continue their service in the second term," McClellan said.

Bush called Mineta at his office during the evening of Dec. 8, "and invited him to stay on as a member of the Cabinet," says DOT spokesman Robert Johnson. "The secretary was honored by that invitation and has accepted the President's offer to continue working transportation issues on his behalf." Perhaps the biggest item of unfinished business is trying to get a new surface transportation bill passed. That legislation has been mired in Congress for months, and federal highway and transit programs have been operating under a series of temporary extensions since October 2003. The latest extension lapses on May 31.

Chao has led Labor Dept. since beginning of first Bush term

The news that Mineta is staying runs counter to recently published comments from anonymous administration sources who predicted that he would resign. But Johnson says, "The secretary knew that the only vote that counted on this issue was the President's and he was content to ignore all of the speculation until he heard from the boss."

The 73-year-old Mineta has headed DOT since January 2001. He is widely respected in transportation construction circles for his long experience in the field. Mineta served 20 years as a congressman from the San Jose, Calif., area, including many years on what was then the House Public Works and Transportation Committee, the last two as the panel's chairman. He also led the surface transportation subcommittee during the drafting of the 1991 Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act, which increased funding sharply for roads and transit and gave localities new freedom to shift funds between those two modes.

He also was Commerce Secretary during part of the Clinton administration.
Chao, who has led the Labor Dept. since January 2001, previously had been deputy DOT secretary, and chairman of the Federal Maritime Commission. She later was president and CEO of United Way of America.

(Photo top courtesy of U.S. Dept. of Transportation, bottom courtesy of U.S. Dept. of Labor)