President-elect Bush has chosen Atlanta educator Louis Sullivan as his secretary of health and human services, pushing aside a controversy over Sullivan's abortion views, and will name him to the Cabinet barring any last-minute hitch, sources said Thursday.
The sources, who commented only on condition they not be named, also said Bush was ready to announce his selection of Chicago transit official Samuel Skinner for transportation secretary.Formal announcement was expected in midafternoon pending the outcome of a high-level staff meeting, said the sources,
Bush had hoped to name Sullivan and Skinner earlier in the week. However, Sullivan, who would be the first black in Bush's prospective Cabinet, encountered stiff resistance from anti-abortion activists over his views on abortion.
Three conservative lawmakers active in the anti-abortion movement met with Sullivan Wednesday. They said he assured them he supports banning most abortions and holds positions similar to Bush's on the highly charged issue.
Sullivan, a 55-year-old physician, is president of the Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta.
Skinner, 50, meanwhile, was summoned to Washington Thursday, his fourth trip to the nation's capital in less than two weeks. Sources say Bush offered him the job of transportation secretary earlier, but the president-elect held off making the selection official because he wanted the Sullivan matter settled before taking questions at another appointment announcement.
Skinner, an attorney who heads the Regional Transportation Authority of Northeastern Illinois, was active in Bush's 1980 and 1988 presidential campaigns.
After filling the HHS and transportation slots, Bush would have named 10 people to his Cabinet and would have four positions to fill: secretaries of interior, energy, labor and veterans affairs.
Thursday, Bush was also to have a private meeting with Eric Arturo Delvalle, the ousted president of Panama whom the United States regards as its legitimate leader.
Bush will spend the Christmas weekend in Washington before leaving on a four-day hunting and fishing trip in Texas and Alabama.
A formal announcement on Skinner had been set for Tuesday, but it was delayed when controversy broke out over Sullivan's views on abortion as recorded over the weekend in an article in The Atlanta Journal and Constitution.
In the newspaper interview, Sullivan was asked about a woman's right to have an abortion. "There should be that right," he said.
But Sullivan told Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Reps. Vin Weber, R-Minn., and Christopher Smith, R-N.J., that he was against abortion except in the cases of rape, incest or to save the life of the mother, the lawmakers said.
Also attending the three-hour meeting Wednesday was Robert Teeter, co-director of the Bush transition.
Not only did Sullivan voice opposition to abortion, he also said he supports a constitutional amendment to overturn the Roe vs. Wade decision, the 1973 Supreme Court case that prohibited states from banning abortion in the first trimester of pregnancy, the lawmakers said.