Top advisers to President-elect Barack Obama said Sunday to expect at least a “token” Republican in his Cabinet as a gesture of bipartisanship, but his transition manager also said to expect the next president to undo some of President Bush‘s executive orders.
“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,” said John Podesta, chief of Mr. Obama‘s transition team, who specifically added offshore drilling and energy exploration in Utah to that list.
“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 to try to restore a sense that the country is working on behalf of the common good,” Mr. Podesta told “Fox News Sunday.”
As Mr. Obama prepared to meet Monday at the White House with Mr. Bush to talk about a smooth transition, his advisers said they would like to see Mr. Bush before he leaves office sign a spending bill to stimulate the economy. If the president balks, the advisers said, it will be Mr. Obama’s top priority after his inauguration.
Monday’s meeting is a result of Mr. Bush’s aggressive effort to adopt a posture of cooperation with the president-elect and his incoming administration.
Mr. Bush called Mr. Obama from the White House to congratulate him less than 15 minutes after he was declared the winner in Tuesday’s election, commending the new president-elect on an “awesome” victory. Mr. Obama has returned the respect, stressing at his Friday press conference that until Jan. 20, Mr. Bush is still the president.
In an effort to show bipartisanship, Mr. Obama’s advisers said he probably would name a Republican to his Cabinet or keep a Bush Cabinet official.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, said Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates is an obvious choice to keep on for at least a while in the next administration. He told CNN’s “Late Edition” program, “Why wouldn’t we want to keep him? He’s never been a registered Republican?”
Mr. Podesta said it’s tradition to have a “token” member of the opposition party. For Mr. Bush, it was Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta, who served from 2001 to 2006.
“I think his charge to us is that he wants a broad, diverse Cabinet, one that’s built on - first criteria is excellence. And that’s what we’re trying to produce,” he said.
Regardless of congressional action, as president, Mr. Obama will have control over some thorny issues by dint of executive orders, which Mr. Bush used to set policy on both offshore drilling and stem-cell research.
In 2001, Mr. Bush issued an order, updated in 2007, that limits what research the federal government will fund, ruling out research on new stem-cell lines, which he said would require destroying human lives in the name of science.
Also, over the objections of Democratic leaders, Mr. Bush issued an executive order earlier this year lifting an order put in place by his father that had prohibited offshore drilling. A congressionally imposed moratorium also expired as of Sept. 30, though Democrats have said they will try to reimpose new restrictions.
During the presidential campaign, Mr. Obama said he was open to limited expansion of offshore drilling as part of a broader energy bill, though Mr. Podesta’s comments seemed to back away from that.
Despite the ongoing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the economy has dominated reporters’ questions to Mr. Obama and his top officials since Tuesday’s election - and Sunday’s talk shows were no different.
Mr. Obama ran on a pledge to cut taxes for Americans making less than $200,000 and to pay for those, as well as other spending, by raising taxes on those making more than $250,000.
On several talk shows Sunday, Rep. Rahm Emanuel, the Illinois Democrat whom Mr. Obama has tapped to be his chief of staff, would not commit to a specific course of action, instead saying the focus will be on the middle class.
He also didn’t embrace or reject the call from congressional Democrats for the president to spend part of the $700 billion Wall Street bailout package to help automakers.
Mr. Emanuel said first the automobile manufacturers must tap the $25 billion fund that the federal government recently set up to aid them, and then policymakers should look at what other authority they already have.
“There’s authorities, both on the $25 billion that’s been laid out, as well as other authorities to help the auto industry, but all part of a strategy that’s going forward on a retooled auto industry that’s focused on our energy independence and our economy,” he said on CNN.
Meanwhile, on “Fox News Sunday,” Reps. Eric Cantor of Virginia and Mike Pence of Indiana, both of whom are likely to ascend to the elected leadership of House Republicans, said Mr. Obama’s win was not a victory for liberal government.
“This was not some kind of realignment of the electorate, not some kind of shift of the American people toward some style of European social big government type of philosophy,” Mr. Cantor said, instead arguing that Americans were punishing Republicans for their governance over the past eight years.