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Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Concordia University School of Law

Monday, November 10, 2008

Obama Weighs Quick Undoing of Bush Policy

The New York Times reports that 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.  Jeff Zeleny writes,

Barack_obama_2As 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 decisions on senior staff members 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.”

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