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Bush picks Portman for budget, backs Rumsfeld

Written by: Staff
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WASHINGTON, Apr 18 (Reuters) President George W Bush today announced two new senior economic aides on Tuesday and signaled more changes are on the way but again strongly rejected criticism of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

Bush named US trade representative, Rob Portman, as his budget director and the deputy trade representative, Susan Schwab, to replace Portman.

Both nominations require Senate confirmation.

In picking Portman and Schwab, Bush made clear he wanted to improve frayed relations with the U.S. Congress.

He said Portman, for example, has shown ''an ability to work across the aisle and bring people together to get things done. And he's going to bring that same skill to his new post.'' Bush, facing slumping poll numbers and a credibility gap with Americans over the Iraq war, is trying to breathe new life into his second term.

Answering questions at a Rose Garden ceremony, Bush said new White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten has broad authority to remold the president's team.

''With a new man will come some changes,'' Bush said.

But asked about Rumsfeld, subject of bitter attack from several retired generals, Bush was unyielding.

''I have strong confidence in Don Rumsfeld. I hear the voices, and I read the front page, and I know the speculation, but I'm the decider, and I decide what is best, and what's best is for Don Rumsfeld to remain as the secretary of defense,'' he said.

In fact he voiced strong confidence in his entire Cabinet -- which could be seen as a boost for Treasury Secretary John Snow, who many believe is on his way out.

''I must tell you that I've got strong confidence in my Cabinet officials, all of them and I appreciate the service they've rendered,'' he said.

MORE REUTERS SB KN2134

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