Energy Secretary Abraham Resigns Post
WASHINGTON - Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham, whose tenure has seen U.S. crude oil prices soar to a record high of nearly $56 a barrel, has resigned but will stay in office until his successor is in place, the White House said Monday.
Abraham informed President. Bush last week of his decision and told his own top staff Monday, the official said.
The White House also announced the resignations of three other cabinet officials -- Secretary of State Colin Powell, Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman and Education Secretary Rod Paige.
Bush is working on a second-term Cabinet and last week Attorney General John Ashcroft and Commerce Secretary Don Evans announced their resignations.
As crude oil and gasoline prices soared to record highs this year, Abraham unsuccessfully pressed for Senate passage of a White House energy plan that would open Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling.
In his resignation letter to President Bush, Abraham said larger Republican Senate and House majorities in the new Congress will ensure that "much needed energy legislation will finally be enacted."
Some lobbyists have quietly questioned how much say Abraham had in shaping U.S. energy policy, claiming Vice President Dick Cheney calls most of the shots in the administration on energy issues. The White House says that is not the case.
Sen. Pete Domenici, who chairs the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, praised Abraham for a job "well done."
"He worked overtime to do what is necessary to stabilize world energy markets and was key to developing a good national energy policy," Domenici said of Abraham.
The senator also praised Abraham's work in preventing the spread of nuclear material, especially what was produced by the former Soviet Union, from reaching terror groups.
Rep. Joe Barton, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said Abraham "did an excellent job under difficult circumstances."
Energy lobbyists and congressional aides have speculated about several possible replacements for Abraham, who was tapped by Bush in 2001 after losing his Senate seat in Michigan.
Among the names mentioned were deputy energy secretary Kyle McSlarrow, who already runs the day-to-day operations of the department and is liked by lawmakers and Capitol Hill staff. McSlarrow also serves as the American co-chair of the U.S.- Russia Energy Working Group established by Presidents Bush and Vladimir Putin.
Other possible candidates are retiring Democratic Sen. John Breaux from Louisiana; Tom Kuhn, president of the Edison Electric Institute trade group; and U.S. ambassador to Mexico Tony Garza, according to lobbyists.
Before becoming Energy Secretary, Abraham served from 1995 to 2001 as a U.S. senator from Michigan. While in the Senate, he sponsored legislation to do away with the Energy Department. The legislation was brought up during Abraham's confirmation hearing and he often joked he had changed his position on the issue.
Abraham was also chairman of the Michigan Republican Party from 1983-1990 and Deputy Chief of Staff to Vice President Dan Quayle from 1990 to 1991.