Obama may order quick changes
President-elect Barack Obama is poised to move swiftly to reverse actions President Bush took using executive authority, and his transition team is reviewing limits on stem-cell research and the expansion of oil and gas drilling, among other issues, members of the team said Sunday.
The New York Times
CHICAGO — President-elect Barack Obama is poised to move swiftly to reverse actions President Bush took using executive authority, and his transition team is reviewing limits on stem-cell research and the expansion of oil and gas drilling, among other issues, members of the team said Sunday.
While Obama prepared to make his first postelection visit to the White House today, his advisers were compiling a list of policies that could be reversed by the executive powers of the new president. The assessment is under way, aides said, but a full list of policies to be overturned will not be announced by Obama until he confers with members of his Cabinet once they are named.
"There's a lot that the president can do using his executive authority without waiting for congressional action, and I think we'll see the president do that," John Podesta, a top transition leader, said Sunday. "He feels like he has a real mandate for change. We need to get off the course that the Bush administration has set."
Throughout his presidency, Bush has broadly used his executive authority to put his stamp on a range of hot-button policy issues.
In January 2001, on his first full day in office, Bush reinstated the so-called global gag rule, initiated during the Reagan administration and overturned by President Clinton, which prohibited taxpayer dollars from being given to international family-planning groups that perform abortions and provide abortion counseling. After Obama's victory last week, the Center for Reproductive Rights delivered a 23-page memo to his transition team, calling for "bold policy change," including a repeal of the gag rule.
On Sunday, in a sign that Obama's well-oiled campaign machine had shifted gears and is now focused on quickly forming an administration, the faces of his new team appeared across the spectrum of Sunday talk shows — a changing of the guard more than two months before Obama officially assumes power.
Obama's new chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, said the federal government should provide aid to the automobile industry to help the major automakers and their supplies survive the financial crisis. General Motors, the largest American automaker, said last week that it has been losing more than $2 billion a month from its cash cushion recently and could face bankruptcy.
Emanuel told CBS' "Face the Nation" that the industry was "an essential part of the economy," echoing remarks Obama made at his first postelection news conference last week.
Reiterating Obama's points, Emanuel said that the Bush administration should accelerate $25 billion in federal loans provided by a recent law to help automakers and suppliers retool to build more energy-efficient vehicles. He said that the Bush administration has power to do more and that Obama's economic team — once he chooses it — will devise options for helping the industry in ways that have the added benefit of being "part of an energy policy, going forward, where America is less dependent on foreign oil."
Podesta, who for months has been planning for the transition, said in an appearance on "Fox News Sunday" that Obama was considering Democrats, Republicans and independents for key Cabinet positions. While previous presidents have not announced such appointments until December, he suggested that officials tasked with the economy, national-security, health-care and energy portfolios could be named sooner.
Obama does not intend to name any Cabinet officials this week, aides said Sunday, but is poised to announce additional White House senior staff decisions as early as Tuesday as he works to begin building his administration from the Oval Office to other positions inside the West Wing and other parts of the government.
The executive orders of the Bush administration are among the many items that are being reviewed by the new Obama team. The transition operation that was set up in August, even before Obama was formally nominated at the Democratic convention, included a plan to scrutinize the policies that could be reversed through the power of an executive order of the new president.
The federal Bureau of Land Management is poised to open about 360,000 acres of public land in Utah to oil and gas drilling, a plan that the Bush administration has argued would not harm the land. Environmentalists have opposed the idea, a sentiment echoed by Podesta on Sunday.
"I think across the board, on stem-cell research, on a number of areas, you see the Bush administration even today moving aggressively to do things that I think are probably not in the interest of the country," Podesta said. "They want to have oil and gas drilling in some of the most sensitive, fragile lands in Utah that they're going to try to do right as they are walking out the door. I think that's a mistake."
Emanuel said Congress needed to extend unemployment-insurance benefits and offer states a lift in paying for health-care bills. When the new Democratic Congress convenes in January, he said, members should tackle a wider economic-stimulus package, including the middle-class tax cut that was a centerpiece of Obama's presidential campaign.
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company
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