Obama Weighs Quick Undoing of Bush Policy

November 10, 2008 at 10:30 am Leave a comment

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 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.”

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: New York Times

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