George Bush named the leading transport executive John Snow as his new Treasury Secretary yesterday, the first appointment in a new economic team which the President hopes will help him to re-election in 2004.
Mr Snow, 63, is chairman of CSX, a railway and transport group. He replaces the controversial Paul O'Neill as the administration's top economic policy spokesman. Mr O'Neill and the chief White House economic adviser, Larry Lindsey, were forced out last week.
The nomination was politely but quietly received in the US business and financial community, which has been less concerned with the identity of a successor than relieved that the gaffe-prone Mr O'Neill has gone. Mr Snow will have to sell Mr Bush's economic policies, based on tax cuts and deregulation, and lead efforts to reduce unemployment, which jumped to 6 per cent in November. "We cannot be satisfied until everyone who is unemployed and seeking a job has an opportunity to work," he said in a brief appearance at the White House with Mr Bush.
The nomination is unlikely to run into serious problems on Capitol Hill, where Mr Snow is well known and where Mr Bush's Republicans have control of the Senate Finance Committee, which will conduct the confirmation hearing.
But Mr Snow is likely to face questions on past government aid to CSX and on his membership of Augusta National Golf Club. Augusta, home of the annual Masters event, is at the centre of a storm over its refusal to admit women members. "I'm not aware that presents any disqualification," Ari Fleischer, Mr Bush's spokesman, told reporters.
Mr Bush praised Mr Snow, who is, like so many of his cabinet team, a veteran of the Ford administration, as a proven business leader.The President is expected to name Stephen Friedman, a former chairman of Goldman Sachs investment bank, to replace Mr Lindsey. But the biggest threat to investor confidence is the continuing vacancy at the Securities and Exchange Commission. A successor has still not been named for Harvey Pitt, who quit as SEC chairman last month.
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