President-elect Bush is nearing a decision on his two remaining Cabinet-level selections but apparently has ruled out James Schlesinger for energy secretary, sources said.
Meanwhile, sources close to Bush who spoke on the condition of anonymity said that two top contenders for the other unfilled spot, the newly created job of drug czar, are former education secretary William J. Bennett and Texas industrialist Ross Perot.Schlesinger, energy secretary under President Carter and defense secretary under President Ford, had earlier been mentioned as a leading candidate for the energy post.
The vice president and Schlesinger met last week to discuss energy issues but "the job was not offered," said a senior Bush transition official who insisted upon not being identified.
Schlesinger reportedly ran into opposition among influential Republicans for his ties to the Carter administration and an abrasive style, the sources said.
Sources said that former Louisiana Rep. Henson Moore remained a top contender on Bush's short list for the energy post.
Aides to Bush said that while he would like to wrap up his Cabinet selection as soon as possible, it was unlikely any additional announcements would come as early as Thursday.
Bush on Wednesday took obvious delight in his last official duty as presiding officer of the Senate. Ruling over a joint session of Congress convened to count electoral votes, the vice president was able to formally announce his own presidential victory.
He declared the final tally from the Electoral College ballots cast last month, giving "George Bush of the state of Texas" 426 votes to Democratic challenger Michael Dukakis' 111 and a maverick electoral vote cast in West Virginia for Lloyd Bensten for president. The final tally reflected Bush's 40-state sweep in the November election.
It had been 152 years since a vice president had been able to perform such a task.