CLINTON'S FOOT-DRAGGING PERSISTS OVER VACANT TRANSPORT SLOTS

CLINTON'S FOOT-DRAGGING PERSISTS OVER VACANT TRANSPORT SLOTS

Almost a year into the Clinton presidency a number of political positions remain unfilled in the Department of Transportation, Republicans continue to enjoy a 3-2 majority on the Interstate Commerce Commission and three seats remain open at the Federal Maritime Commission.

Late last week, the White House rushed three nominations to the Senate for possible action before Congress adjourns for the year, but top DOT slots left unfilled include the assistant secretary for international affairs, the head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the administrator for the Research and Special Projects Administration, the agency that writes hazardous materials regulations.On Saturday, President Clinton nominated T.R. Lakshmanan to a four-year term as first director of the Department of Transportation's new Bureau of Transportation Statistics.

On Thursday, the Senate was asked to confirm William Hathaway to a second term on the Federal Maritime Commission. Earlier this year, Mr. Clinton had designated Mr. Hathaway to serve as agency chairman, although Mr. Hathaway's term expired on June 30.

On Friday, the administration nominated Linda Hall Daschle as deputy administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration. The Senate confirmed her on Saturday.

Still, the Clinton White House has been accused of acting slowly in filling key political positions.

"The administration is really about on track with the Bush administration for filling positions," one commerce committee aide said. "Unfortunately, we expect them to slow down the pace even more."

The slowdown is expected because in order to reach its self-imposed goal of a 25 percent cut in White House employees, the administration has sent many temporary personnel official staffers back to their permanent agencies. Bruce Lindsay, personnel director, and several of his top aides have been named to other jobs in the administration. In addition, the focus of top White House personnel has been on health care and the North American Free Trade Agreement.

"It could be a while until that office gets re-staffed," a former White House aide said. "And when it does, those people will not have read the resumes or helped cull the candidates. It could mean a whole new set of candidates for all the positions."

Republicans have held a 3-2 majority at the ICC this year because no Democrat has been named to replace former Bush White House aide Gregory Walden. Mr. Walden was put on the ICC by President Bush just hours before his power to make recess appointments ended last January.

In addition to that seat, the term of Republican Edward Philbin expires at the end of this year, leaving two positions for the president to fill. Paperwork for candidate Linda Morgan is being sent to the White House, sources say. Ms. Morgan, Senate commerce committee general counsel, is rumored to be the front runner for chairman of the agency, a position now held by acting Chairman Gail McDonald.

Mr. Clinton has not taken advantage of his opportunity to appoint three other members to the five-member Federal Maritime Commission.

There are two vacant seats on the commission. Additionally, Commissioner Francis Ivancie, a Democrat appointed during the Reagan administration, continues to serve even though his five-year term expired last year.

The short list of candidates is said to include Harold Creel, senior counsel to the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee's merchant marine subcommittee; John Meade, a veteran maritime lawyer; Joe Scroggins, senior deputy port director at the Port of Tampa, and Delmond Won, a member of Hawaii's powerful Land Use Commission.

At the Maritime Administration, what is generally considered the third- ranking post, deputy administrator for inland waterways and Great Lakes, is unfilled.

The leading candidate is John Graykowski, a Washington attorney who initially came under fire from industry for lacking background or ties in barging and shipping, although his resume includes handling transportation matters for Sen. Donald Riegle, D-Mich.