Clinton Picks Robert Rubin to Replace Bentsen in Cabinet

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON (AP) _ President Clinton selected Robert Rubin, who amassed a multimillion-dollar fortune on Wall Street before joining the administration, to succeed Lloyd Bentsen as Treasury secretary Tuesday.

Bentsen's departure will deprive the administration of the Cabinet officer with the most experience and respect on Capitol Hill just as Republicans are taking control of Congress for the first time in 40 years.

But the change is expected to have little impact on policy since both men are pro-business Democrats.

Rubin, who took a $26 million pay cut to leave the investment banking firm of Goldman Sachs Co. to join the administration, won widespread praise as a self-effacing coordinator who made sure a coherent economic strategy was developed for a president often criticized for an inability to reach timely decisions.

But it was unclear how smoothly Rubin would be able to make the transition from his behind-the-scenes role to chief economic policy spokesman for the administration, where he will have to serve as the point man in dealing with a Republican Congress intent on shrinking the size of government and cutting taxes.

In a Rose Garden ceremony announcing the change, Clinton thanked Bentsen for his contributions and said, "I'm really going to miss you."

Bentsen, who had spent 22 years in the Senate before joining the administration, said he told the president back in September of his desire to return to his native Texas and was not swayed even though Clinton tried on several occasions to talk him out of it.

"It's been a great time to be Treasury secretary and it's a great time to be bowing out as Treasury secretary," said Bentsen, who later told reporters that the Republican takeover of Congress had not influenced his decision.

Rubin's position as director of the president's National Economic Council is expected to be filled by Erskine Bowles, currently the deputy White House chief of staff.

An administration source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that Bowles' selection was not announced Tuesday because the White House had not decided on Bowles' replacement.

While Bentsen was the first top economic policy-maker to leave the administration, there were already rumors of other departures. Commerce Secretary Ron Brown is among those being considered to run the president's re-election campaign and could depart early next year.

Clinton praised Rubin as the "consummate honest broker" who had helped the White House "do something that had never been done before, to have an economic team that really works together as a team." Clinton created the NEC to perform the same coordinating role in economic policy that the National Security Council does in foreign affairs. …