President-elect Barack Obama announced the final selections for his cabinet yesterday, naming Rep. Hilda L. Solis (D., Calif.) as labor secretary, former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk as U.S. trade representative and Rep. Ray LaHood (R., Ill.) as transportation secretary.
In a news conference in Chicago, Obama also named Karen Gordon Mills, a partner in a private equity firm, to head the Small Business Administration.
"Together with the appointees I've already announced, these leaders will help craft a 21st-century economic recovery plan with the goal of creating 2.5 million new jobs and strengthening our economy for the future," Obama said in introducing the four.
He said he has filled out his economic team "at an earlier point than any president in history" in part because the challenges of addressing the nation's economic problems are so daunting.
In response to questions, he declined to put a dollar figure on a proposed economic recovery package that some analysts estimate could cost up to $1 trillion.
But he said economists "from across the political spectrum" agree that "we're going to have to be bold when it comes to our economic recovery package" to get the economy back on track.
In introducing Solis, Obama said the Labor Department under the Bush administration "has not lived up to its role either as an advocate for hard-working families or as an arbiter of fairness in relations between labor and management."
Solis said she would "work to strengthen our unions and support every American in our nation's diverse workforce."
With his selection of Solis, a liberal member of Congress, the Obama also appears to be moving toward his goal of promoting "green-collar jobs," which are aimed at increasing energy efficiency through projects such as retrofitting.
Labor leaders embraced the decision to name Solis, whose father was a Teamsters shop steward in Mexico, to the post.
In a statement, Andy Stern, president of the Service Employees International Union, noted that Solis had marched with janitors in Los Angeles, and in Congress "has never backed down from the good fight to make the American Dream available to all."
Solis, who was born in Los Angeles in 1957, is the third Hispanic person chosen for the cabinet (besides Bill Richardson and Ken Salazar), and the fifth woman (after Hillary Rodham Clinton, Susan Rice, Janet Napolitano and Lisa Jackson).
Solis was an avid supporter of Clinton in the Democratic presidential primaries, but as the primaries ended she was aggressively courted by Obama as part of his effort to win over Hispanic voters.
The next labor secretary likely will spend much time contending with a looming battle over the Employee Free Choice Act, legislation Obama supported that would make it easier for unions to organize workers but that business groups oppose.
Obama will install Kirk as the steward of his trade policies. The first black mayor of Dallas, Kirk ran unsuccessfully for one of Texas' U.S. Senate seats in 2002. Since leaving office, he has been a partner at the Houston-based law firm of Vinson & Elkins.
Kirk said he would work "to further the message that America is open for business and to promote a progressive pro-trade agenda."
But among his priorities will be following up on Obama's campaign promises of stiffer enforcement of trade pacts, particularly the environmental and labor protections in the North American Free Trade Agreement.
As transportation secretary, LaHood, a 63-year-old Republican who is retiring after representing a rural downstate Illinois district in Congress since 1995, would play a major role in overseeing the huge public works program Obama plans to stimulate the flagging economy.
In introducing LaHood, Obama said the nomination reflects a "bipartisan spirit . . . we need to reclaim in this country to make progress for the American people."
Mills is a founding partner of New York-based private equity firm Solera Capital and has been an adviser to Maine Gov. John Baldacci on economic matters.
All four would need Senate confirmation.
Obama disclosed the latest members of his incoming administration on the eve of a Hawaiian vacation. He has yet to name his picks for senior intelligence positions; those announcements aren't expected until he returns.
According to the Associated Press, several Democratic officials with knowledge of the deliberations said yesterday that Dennis Blair, a retired admiral and the former head of U.S. Pacific Command, is likely - if not certain - to become director of national intelligence.
It was unclear whom Obama would tap to lead the Central Intelligence Agency.
U.S. representative from Illinois, 1994-present; chief of staff,
Rep. Robert Michel, 1990-1994; also worked as a junior high school teacher, chief planner for the Bi-State Metropolitan Planning Commission and as the director of the Rock Island (Ill.) County Youth Services Bureau.
B.S. in education and sociology, Bradley University, 1971.
Hilda L. Solis
U.S. representative from California, 2000-present; California Senate, 1994-2000; California Assembly, 1992-1994; Rio Hondo Community College board of trustees, 1985-1992; Los Angeles County Insurance Commission, 1991-93; White House Office of Hispanic Affairs, Carter administration.
B.A., California State Polytechnic University, Pomona; master of public administration, University of Southern California.