Mineta to undergo major surgery

| 1/16/2003

Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta, who has run the U.S. Department of Transportation from a hospital bed for most of the last six weeks, will undergo major back surgery next week to relieve chronic pain, The Associated Press reported.

The Jan. 24 surgery at Walter Reed Army Medical Center will last up to 18 hours. Mineta will be in intensive care for up to a week and is not expected to leave the hospital until at least mid-February.

Deputy Secretary Michael Jackson and senior staff members will run the department while Mineta recovers, agency spokesman Leonardo Alcivar told AP.

Mineta's health problems lead to speculation he might leave President Bush's Cabinet. However, Mineta told department officials he didn’t plan to quit. “I'll be back,'' Mineta said, impersonating Arnold Schwarzenegger's “Terminator.”

Mineta, 71, is the only Democrat in the Cabinet. The former 10-term House member from San Jose, CA, became the first Asian-American Cabinet secretary in 2000, when then-President Clinton tapped him to head the Commerce Department.

Mineta has had various health problems since joining the Cabinet. He spent four days in the hospital in October 2001 because of a nosebleed and resulting low blood pressure and had a hip replaced a year ago.