Obama Intensifies Recruitment of House Democrats

Posted December 4, 2008 at 11:41am

Members of Congress are flooding the queue of possible nominees to President-elect Barack Obama’s administration.

The latest announcement comes from Rep. John Salazar (D-Colo.), who said Wednesday he is in the running for Agriculture secretary.

“I am humbled that I may be under consideration as a possible nominee for Secretary of Agriculture,” Salazar said in a statement to the Denver Post.

“Should President-elect Obama honor me with a nomination to Agriculture, I would certainly consider it. However, at this time, I am continuing my work on behalf of my constituents in the Third Congressional District and preparing for the many difficult challenges facing the 111th Congress,” Salazar said.

Salazar, just elected to a third term, told the newspaper he has talked to the Obama transition team, but has not been interviewed. If nominated and confirmed, Salazar would be the first Hispanic Agriculture secretary.

Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (D-S.D.) has also been cited as a contender for the Agriculture post.

A spokesman for Obama’s transition team declined to comment on contenders for any administration position, saying only that they do not comment on nominations before they have been made.

Other House lawmakers in the running for top Obama spots include Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.), who is being considered for director of the Central Intelligence Agency. Harman currently chairs the Homeland Security Subcommittee on Intelligence, Information Sharing and Terrorism Risk Assessment.

Additionally, Democratic Reps. Raúl Grijalva (Ariz.), Mike Thompson (Calif.) and Jay Inslee (Wash.) have been cited as possible contenders for Obama’s Interior secretary.

Inslee’s spokeswoman Torie Brazitis said of the possibility her boss could be tapped: “Rep. Inslee is flattered and honored to be under consideration, but the decision is really up to President-elect Obama and his transition team.”

Grijalva has the backing of conservation groups and nine Arizona Indian tribes. Nearly 60 conservation scientists sent a joint letter this week to Obama describing Grijalva as someone capable of “ameliorating the eight years of damage done by the Bush administration.”

Thompson has support from hunting and fishing groups, who sent a letter to Obama urging him to “strongly consider” Thompson. The California lawmaker also has the support of fellow delegation Democratic Reps. Anna Eshoo and George Miller, who also sent letters on his behalf.

What’s more, Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.) is reportedly Obama’s top choice for U.S. trade representative. News of this possibility has sent other lawmakers scrambling for Becerra’s recently elected role as House Democratic Caucus vice chairman.

Obama has already pulled one prominent House lawmaker into his staff: fellow Illinois Democrat and former House Democratic Caucus Chairman Rahm Emanuel, who is now Obama’s chief of staff.

He also has plucked two prominent Democratic Senators from Congress, tapping Sen. Joseph Biden (Del.) to serve as vice president and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) to be his secretary of State.