Obama Weighs Quick Undoing of Bush Policy
By JEFF ZELENY
Published: November 9, 2008
CHICAGO — President-elect Barack Obama is poised to move swiftly to reverse actions that 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.
As Mr. Obama prepared to make his first post-election visit to the White House on Monday, 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 Mr. Obama until he confers with new members of his cabinet.
“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 D. 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, Mr. Bush has made liberal use of his executive authority, using it to put his stamp on a range of hot-button policy issues.
In January 2001, on his first full day in office, Mr. Bush reinstated the so-called global gag rule, initiated during the Reagan administration and overturned by President Bill Clinton, which prohibited taxpayer dollars from being given to international family planning groups that perform abortions and provide abortion counseling. After Mr. Obama’s victory last week, the Center for Reproductive Rights delivered a 23-page memorandum to his transition team, calling for “bold policy change,” including a repeal of the gag rule.
On Sunday, in a sign that the presidential campaign had definitively ended and that the fast-forming administration had become the focal point, the faces of Mr. Obama’s new team appeared across the spectrum of Sunday talk shows, a changing of the guard more than two months before he officially assumes power.
Mr. Obama’s new chief of staff, Representative Rahm Emanuel, Democrat of Illinois, said the federal government should provide aid to the automobile industry to help the major automakers and their suppliers survive the financial crisis. General Motors, the largest American automaker, said last week that it had been losing more than $2 billion a month recently from its cash cushion and could face bankruptcy.
Mr. Emanuel told the CBS News program “Face the Nation” that the industry was “an essential part of the economy,” echoing remarks that Mr. Obama made at his first post-election news conference last week.
Restating Mr. Obama’s points, Mr. Emanuel said 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 had the power to do more and that Mr. Obama’s economic team, once chosen, would devise options for helping the industry in ways that had the added benefit of being “part of an energy policy, going forward, where America is less dependent on foreign oil.”
The idea of turning the auto industry’s crisis into a chance to enact changes with energy and environmental benefits is one that Mr. Emanuel has promoted in Congress. But he said that Mr. Obama had yet to settle on his proposals or whether he would announce them before he was sworn in.
“Rule one: Never allow a crisis to go to waste,” Mr. Emanuel said in an interview on Sunday. “They are opportunities to do big things.”
Mr. Podesta, who for months has been preparing for the transition, said in an appearance on “Fox News Sunday” that Mr. Obama was considering Democrats, Republicans and independents for key cabinet positions. While previous presidents have not announced such appointments until December, Mr. Podesta suggested that officials with responsibility for the economy, national security, health care and energy portfolios could be named sooner.
“I think he intends to move very quickly,” Mr. Podesta said. “And you know, he’s beaten a lot of records during the course of the campaign.”
Mr. Obama does not intend to name any cabinet officials this week, aides said Sunday, but could announce additional White House senior staff decisions as early as Tuesday as he begins building his administration, from the Oval Office to other positions in the West Wing and other parts of the government.
Mr. 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, it should tackle a wider economic stimulus package that includes the middle-class tax cut that was a centerpiece of Mr. Obama’s presidential campaign.
“You cannot have a strong and resilient economy that does not have a strong and resilient middle class,” Mr. Emanuel said on “This Week” on ABC. “They have been squeezed over the last number of years, and it is essential to have an economic strategy that strengthens them going forward.”
Mr. Emanuel said an economic stimulus package in Congress should not be linked to a free-trade agreement with Colombia, as some Republicans have sought to do. Democrats have resisted those efforts, saying it does not provide enough labor protection.
The executive orders of the Bush administration are among the many items being reviewed by the new Obama team. The transition operation that was set up in August, even before Mr. Obama was formally nominated at the Democratic convention, included a plan to scrutinize the policies that could be reversed through executive orders.
The 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 Mr. Podesta on Sunday.
“I think across the board, on stem cell research, on a number of areas,” Mr. Podesta said on “Fox News Sunday,” “you see the Bush administration even today moving aggressively to do things that I think are probably not in the interest of the country. 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.”
Mr. Bush used his first prime-time address, on Aug. 9, 2001, to announce his decision (technically a policy pronouncement and not an executive order) to permit federal financing for human embryonic stem cell research, albeit with strict limitations. Scientists and patient advocates have spent years pressing him to loosen the restrictions; Mr. Bush has twice vetoed legislation that would have done so.
“It will have been eight years that we have been operating in a limited funding environment,” said Larry Soler, a board member of the Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research, an umbrella group representing 100 organizations. “I think everyone in the scientific community and the patient community is geared up and expecting this and excited to make this happen. It’s been a long struggle.”
Responding to questions about how Michelle Obama intends to shape her time as first lady, Valerie Jarrett, a close adviser to Mr. Obama and a longtime family friend, said Mrs. Obama would first concentrate on getting her daughters, ages 7 and 10, adjusted to a new city and a new school. She said Mrs. Obama would forge her own style, dismissing a question about whether she would be more like Hillary Rodham Clinton or Laura Bush.
“Her model will be Michelle Obama,” Ms. Jarrett said on “Meet the Press” on NBC. “She’s going to be her own first lady. There’ll be nothing like it. Having a seat at the table and being a co-president is not something that she’s interested in doing.”
SOURCE: The NY Times, obama weighs quick undoing of Bush policies