Cheney finally gets keys to government transition office

McLEAN, Va. - Vice President-election Dick Cheney said Thursday that the incoming GOP administration was moving to build its Cabinet ''as quickly as possible,'' though the job might not be done by Christmas.

''We're going to move as rapidly as we can,'' Cheney said after accepting the keys to a government transition office. Asked about the possibility of announcing President-elect Bush's Cabinet before the holidays, Cheney said, ''I don't want to set artificial deadlines.''

General Services Administration officials, after keeping the government transition office locked up for five weeks during the election standoff, traveled to the privately financed GOP transition office in Virginia to give Cheney the building's electronic access card.

Bush and Cheney, who is leading the transition team, also were authorized to use a $5.3 million federal bank account for the transition.

Despite the private Virginia office set up Nov. 30, Cheney said the election deadlock, broken Wednesday night with Al Gore's concession, slowed the process of filling positions in the administration that will take power Jan. 20.

He said it was especially hard to interview Democrats for positions - a course Bush seems interested in taking to give his administration a bipartisan flavor after such a bitter fight for the White House.

Approaching Democrats was ''awkward while there was still a contest under way,'' Cheney said.

Now, he said, the transition team can be ''much more aggressive.''

The 21,000 square foot Virginia office has served as the epicenter for Bush's transition effort - and provided Cheney and other key Bush aides with a home during the election impasse.

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