President-elect George Bush moved Friday to bolster his relationship with a Congress that could prove testy in coming months, as he also reached out to governors and worked to fill jobs on his economic team.
In the face of a volatile economic climate that has seen declines in the stock market and a plunge in the dollar's value abroad, Bush reiterated Friday that he plans to round out his economic appointments soon and then move on to name his national security team.After a weekend out of the public eye, Bush also plans to meet Monday with former Presidents Ford and Carter, said sources close to the president-elect.
Anticipating what many observers say will be a short "honeymoon" before Congress begins to stand up to the Bush White House on taxes and other issues, Bush and his newly named chief of staff, New Hampshire Gov. John Sununu, met for lunch Friday with House Speaker Jim Wright.
Afterward, Wright, D-Texas, sounded a hopeful note for a working relationship, telling reporters that Bush will have closer relations with Congress than did President Reagan.
He said Bush "is quite earnestly interested in the realities of the deficit," which is likely to be a bone of contention, especially given Bush's campaign vow not to raise taxes to cut the federal budget deficit.
Bush, on entering the meeting, also expressed hopes for good ties, telling reporters, "I meant it when I said I want to work closely with him and members of the House of Representatives, no matter which side of the aisle they sit on . . . I want to get off to a very good start."
Sununu said Bush would communicate directly with Congress to address the deficit.
"I think Congress and the president are going to work aggressively and quickly to deal with that issue," Sununu said on ABC-TV's "Good Morning America" program.
Bush's transition press secretary, Sheila Tate, said the speaker had telephoned Bush for a meeting, indicating he would come to the vice president's office.
But, according to Tate, Bush offered to go to Capitol Hill instead, to show he is "willing to cooperate and work with Congress."
"It showed . . . he was willing to come halfway, rather than asking me to go down to the White House," Wright said, acknowledging the symbolism.
In what Bush called another symbolic step Friday, the president-elect met with a group of 18 governors and governors-elect in Charlottesville, Va.
He said the purpose was "to send an early signal to the governors and the states of my interests in working with the governors, Democrats and Republicans alike."
Virginia Gov. Gerald Baliles said the discussion ranged over the deficit, environment, wetlands policies, education, catastrophic health coverage and the National Economic Commission, established by Congress to make recommendations on budget issues.
Bush told the group he would name his two appointees to the bipartisan commission in early December, said Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad.
Asked when to expect more decisions on staff and Cabinet appointments, Bush told reporters to "stay tuned."
Bush's announcement on Thursday of Sununu as chief of staff and longtime political strategist Lee Atwater as his choice for chairman of the Republican National Committee, was followed by the selection of two of Bush's key campaign strategists for Sununu's staff.
They are Ed Rogers, 29, Atwater's right-hand man in the Bush campaign and former deputy political director in the Reagan White House; and Andrew Card Jr., former special assistant to the president for intergovernmental affairs who served as a senior adviser to the Bush campaign.
Card, 41, is widely mentioned as a possible 1990 gubernatorial candidate in Massachusetts. Aides to Democratic presidential nominee Michael Dukakis credited him with finding and exploiting some of the most politically damaging material that contributed to Dukakis' loss.
Meanwhile, former Bush campaign press spokesman Mark Goodin has been tapped to serve at the RNC under Atwater as director of communications.
As for his next staff and Cabinet appointments, Bush said he will "flesh out the economic side of the house," after asking Nicholas Brady to remain as treasury secretary, and then "start working on national security."
It was anticipated Bush next week would name former Deputy Treasury Secretary Richard Darman to head the Office of Management and Budget.
The economic front is considered important in light of bad news in the international financial world since Bush's election. The stock market fell and the dollar dropped in value, with many analysts questioning whether Bush can cut the U.S. trade and budget deficits.