President-elect George Bush canceled plans for announcing new Cabinet appointments Tuesday after the leading contender for secretary of health and human services was quoted as saying he favored a woman's right to an abortion.
Comments by medical educator Louis Sullivan over the weekend in an Atlanta newspaper resulted in an unexpected snag in his selection by Bush to head the sprawling agency, transition sources said.Bush canceled a scheduled 2 p.m. announcement of Cabinet choices.
He had been poised to name Chicago mass transit official Samuel Skinner as his transportation secretary, and sources had said an additional appointment had been likely, to add the first black to the new Cabinet.
According to sources who spoke only on the condition of anonymity, two blacks have been in line for Cabinet posts: Sullivan and retired three-star Army Gen. Julius W. Becton.
The Atlanta Journal and Constitution reported Sunday that Sullivan, president of Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta, said in an interview that he supported a woman's right to choose to have an abortion.
That appeared to be at odds with a statement released by Bush's transition office last week after the two men met in Washington. The statement said Sullivan had assured the vice president he shared Bush's anti-abortion views.
Even though Sullivan, a friend of Bush and his wife, was reported to have said that he, like Bush, opposes the use of federal funds for abortions, the weekend interview threw an obstacle in his path to the Cabinet, transition and congressional sources said.
The Atlanta Constitution reported Tuesday that Sullivan had said Monday night he was having trouble getting calls to the White House returned.
"I have simply concluded that, as a result of my not receiving a call back, the things have been put off, and hopefully it's not anything worse than that."
Sullivan told the newspaper his stand on abortion is private and he does not intend to disagree publicly with Bush's anti-abortion views.
He said he believes "there should be that right (to abortions). . . . At the same time, I am aware of the fact that the president-elect feels that that should not be the case, and I would have to, as secretary, should I be appointed, carry out his policies."
A Bush transition official said that Bush had not formally offered the post to Sullivan, despite widespread speculation and despite Sullivan's own comments.
The appointment of Jack Kemp to head the Housing and Urban Development Department was announced Monday, cheering conservatives who have long viewed the New York congressman as a champion of their causes. But Kemp said he does not plan to be conservative in approach when it comes to fighting for housing programs that work.