Published January 29, 2003
WASHINGTON – Tuesday's confirmation was smooth sailing for President Bush's Treasury Secretary-designate John Snow, who testified before the Senate Finance Committee, saying the president's economic stimulus package is "an investment in the American people and their future."
Snow, chairman and chief executive officer of CSX Corp., said that he would not rest until everyone who wanted a job had one.
"Jobs give people dignity and provide hope," he said. "I know what it's like to need a job and I also know what it takes to create jobs."
Though CSX employment has dropped by nearly 7,000 jobs since 1993, due in part to the sale of some operations and federal legislation and partly to the difficult economy, members on the committee seemed to have little concern about Snow's qualifications. Instead, they raised questions about the president's proposed $674 billion economic proposal, specifically worries that tax cuts might deepen the deficit at a time when the nation faces big war time expenses.
"Why have such a large tax package today in view of all those probable big expenditures, which clearly could increase the deficit?" asked Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., ranking member of the committee.
"Let me say the deficits we are looking at are modest compared with the [gross domestic product], and the debt levels are relatively modest versus the GDP. That's the important consideration," Snow said, later telling Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, that a small amount of deficit is acceptable for the time being.
"There is some level of deficit clearly that is troublesome, that begins to tilt the financial markets. We're not there yet," he said.
Bush picked Snow because he wanted someone who would enthusiastically support his economic plan. Across Pennsylvania Ave., Bush urged Congress to move quickly to confirm Snow as the next secretary of the Treasury.
"I look forward to having him join us here at this table," Bush said during a Cabinet meeting.
If confirmed, Snow, whose job it was to keep CSX's rails running on time, will be responsible for getting the nation's economy back on track.
To do so, Snow said that returning the U.S. dollar to strength is a top priority. He also backed the president's growth proposal.
"I believe that President Bush's recent economic growth proposal moves the tax system, and the potential of the U.S. economy, in the right direction," he said.
Snow, 63, is a former chairman of the Business Roundtable, an association of chief executives of major corporations. He also served in several Ford administration posts. He holds a law degree and a Ph.D. in economics.
Even lawmakers concerned about the president's stimulus plan expressed confidence in his ability and announced their intention to vote for his confirmation.
"I'm confident you are the right person for this job at this time," said Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee, who said he wanted to move quickly on Snow's nomination.
None of the senators mentioned a 1982 DUI charge that was later dismissed or a dispute with his ex-wife over child care payments, both which he revealed in his disclosure to the Senate.
Snow also said that he would sell his stock in CSX and 60 other companies if confirmed, and agreed to give up his severance package from CSX estimated at $15 million. The nominee, already worth an estimated $77 million to $297 million, pledged to recuse himself from participating in any decisions involving CSX while at the Treasury.
Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., said he would vote in favor of Snow's nomination, pointing to his "wealth of experience" and a "reputation that is impeccable."
Snow will take the place of former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill, the former Alcoa chairman, who was ousted in a shake-up of the Bush economic team following complaints about a touch-and-go economic recovery.
Senate Finance Chairman Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, said Snow is headed for a vote by the committee before the end of the week, and that he is on track to have his nomination considered by the full Senate next week.
Then he will again appear before the Finance Committee for a continued discussion of the president's proposals.
Fox News' Brian Wilson and The Associated Press contributed to this report.