Obama Pressed on Cabinet, Policy

Antiwar groups say keeping Defense Secretary Robert Gates in his post -- as Obama is widely rumored to be considering -- would belie his promise for a major change of course in the war in Iraq. Obama's promise to name at least one Republican to his Cabinet has some Democratic-aligned organizations worried about which department may have a GOP tilt.

Then there's policy items. To name just a few, Obama is being urged to quickly push immigration reform; close Guantanamo Bay; mandate reduced carbon emissions; make vast expansions in health care; repeal executive orders opposed by gay-rights, environmental and abortion-rights groups; reverse Department of Labor and Department of Justice policies that are perceived as hostile to labor unions and immigrants; initiate a swift troop withdrawal from Iraq; and find resources for another fiscal stimulus bill that includes help for the troubled auto industry.

Obama Pressured on Cabinet Positions

Organizations haven't been shy about making their wishes known. After an election in which Obama won a larger than expected share of the Latino vote, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund called on Obama to name Richardson -- a former United Nations ambassador -- as his secretary of state.

The group also wants Obama to tackle immigration reform and reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act -- before the 2010 congressional elections.

"There is no better diplomat in the country than Bill Richardson," John Trasvina, Maldef's president and general counsel. "Immigration is probably the single most important issue to us. We would want to see reform in the first two years of administration."

The League of United Latin American Citizens also wants Richardson in the Cabinet and is recommending labor leader Linda Chavez-Thompson for secretary of labor and former New Mexico Attorney General Patricia Madrid as Interior secretary.

The National Organization for Women has a Cabinet wish list as well, including Clinton at State, and FDIC Chairwoman Sheila Bair at Treasury. The group's leaders have made it clear that they don't want Summers in Obama's Cabinet.

"We want people who recognize that they need to put women in the picture," said NOW President Kim Gandy. "My experience with [Obama] is that he does value women's rights and wants to see women treated equally. That said, I am concerned Larry Summers' name is there for two reasons. One is he seems to have played a significant role in getting us where we are [in the economic crisis]. I don't know whether we want the fox to be building the henhouse. And then the comments he made about possibly women's inferior abilities."

Clinton Failures Still Rankle Some

Leaders of several interest groups say their hopes for quick action on their priorities are colored by the experiences of the Clinton administration. A series of major priorities -- including health care reform -- never became reality in the 1990s, in part because Democrats didn't capitalize on early momentum. The Democrats lost control of Congress just two years into President Clinton's first term.

Schechner, of Health Care for America Now, said her group feels invested in the Obama presidency after spending $4.3 million on congressional races, much of it focused on attacking Sen. John McCain's health care plan.

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