The White House yesterday signaled that the remolding of President Bush's Cabinet is nearly finished, with word that four additional members will remain on a team that is critical...

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WASHINGTON — The White House yesterday signaled that the remolding of President Bush’s Cabinet is nearly finished, with word that four additional members will remain on a team that is critical to advancing the president’s agenda.

The four planning to stay are Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta, Labor Secretary Elaine Chao, Interior’s Gale Norton, and Housing and Urban Development’s Alphonso Jackson.

Along with Treasury Secretary John Snow, whom Bush reluctantly asked to remain earlier this week, and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, the president will have only six of 15 Cabinet members serving near the end of his first term.

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In recent presidential history, only former President Nixon matched the number of Cabinet seats changing hands under Bush. Presidents Clinton and Reagan had seven changes each for their second terms; Presidents Truman and Johnson had four each.

“We are at the point where we’re nearing the completion of the Cabinet transition,” White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan said yesterday.

The president’s second-term team — especially his economic advisers — will be instrumental in advocating his legislative agenda.

That includes Snow, an economist and former railroad executive whom the White House initially had hoped to replace with a more forceful treasury secretary to oversee Bush’s two big legislative goals for his second term: tax reform and Social Security.

Some experts believe that to have a chance of pushing through such large-scale initiatives, Bush will need dynamic economic advisers skilled at dealing with the public, Congress and the media. That’s why former Sen. Phil Gramm, R-Texas, among others, was suggested as a possible treasury secretary.

In the end, however, Bush decided Snow, who has kept a low profile and been loyal to the president and his agenda, was his best option. Some believe Bush may choose higher-profile individuals for his White House economic team.

With the exodus from his Cabinet over for now, Bush still is in the process of replacing those who left.

The president yesterday nominated Jim Nicholson, U.S. ambassador to the Vatican and a former Republican National Committee chairman, to serve as secretary of veterans affairs, replacing Anthony Principi. Nicholson, a West Point graduate, is a decorated Vietnam War veteran.

Bush still must appoint replacements for Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson and Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham.

Dr. Mark McClellan, a physician who heads the Medicare and Medicaid programs, is considered most likely to lead HHS.

Among names mentioned for the energy post are Tom Kuhn, president of the Edison Electric Institute, the utility industry’s trade group; Kyle McSlarrow, Abraham’s deputy; former Sen. Bennett Johnston, D-La.; Sen. John Breaux, D-La.; Rep. Heather Wilson, R-N.M.; and William Martin, who was in the Energy Department under Bush’s father.

Details on Cabinets under other presidents and possible replacements for Abraham were provided by The Associated Press.