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Interior Employees Greet Babbitt With Standing Ovation With AM-Breyer Bjt

May 16, 1994

WASHINGTON (AP) _ A standing ovation greeted Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt when he told department employees Monday he was happy to be back and put all the Supreme Court speculation behind him.

If he was disappointed in not being selected by President Clinton to fill the court vacancy, Babbitt didn’t show it.

Speaking in a packed Interior Department auditorium, he said he relished getting back to the issues facing his department from grazing reforms to changing the federal mining laws, and to once again ″be down on the field, playing the game.″

Babbitt, who lost out to Boston appellate judge Stephen Breyer for the court nomination, described a post-midnight meeting with President Clinton early last Thursday during which they discussed the nomination and issues facing the Interior Department.

After Clinton informed him Friday he would not be selected, Babbitt said he told the president, ‴If I were making the decision, I (too) would keep me at the Department of Interior’ - and here we are.″

The president announced Breyer’s selection Friday afternoon after more than a week of intense speculation over who would replace Justice Harry Blackmun.

Babbitt, 55, a former Arizona governor and presidential candidate, has made no secret that he would have liked the nomination. But he said Monday he also wasn’t sure he was ready for the political isolation and solitude of the Supreme Court.

″I’m really too young to take a vow of political celibacy and go off to a monastery for the rest of my life,″ he told the department employees.

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