What of his role? "Mr. Obama does not intend to play a leading role in the [lame-duck] session. Aides said he was focused on the economic packages he would offer as president, as well as working behind the scenes with Congressional Democratic leaders," Herszenhorn and Hulse report. "But aides have not definitively ruled out the prospect of Mr. Obama casting his vote if it was needed. His Senate replacement will not be named by then."
This qualifies as ruling it out: "When Congress convenes for a lame-duck session next week to confront an economic crisis and potentially provide new help for the ailing auto industry, Sen. Obama of Illinois will be noticeably absent," Mark Silva writes in the Chicago Tribune.
Says transition spokesman Dan Pfeiffer: "He's not going to be there."
Writes Silva: "While Obama is pressing for quick action from Congress on an economic stimulus plan, he may not necessarily want to be identified with any package that Bush supports. For all the urgency of action on the economy, or on the problems of the auto industry, severing ties with the Senate in the transition period could pave the way for the president-elect to chart a new course on economy recovery."
They still have to work with the old guy, until Jan. 20: "The White House is lukewarm to Pelosi's idea of using some of the $700 billion banking bailout money for the automobile industry. One senior White House official told me it's 'a slippery slope' and asked rhetorically, 'who's next?' " per ABC's Jonathan Karl. "Meanwhile, the auto industry likes Pelosi's approach, but sees it as a stopgap measure until the new Congress passes something more comprehensive in January. As one auto industry source working with Congressional leaders told me, 'We're talking about a bridge loan, a bridge to the stimulus.' "
And what if Obama's now-public lobbying isn't enough? "A federal bailout for Detroit faces an uphill battle in the Senate and an uncertain fate at the White House," Lori Montgomery and Michael Abramowitz report in The Washington Post. "The move would greatly expand the reach of the government into the private sector and could touch off a mad scramble in other industries to claim a piece of the Treasury's bailout money."
"A stumbling block may be the Senate, where Republicans control 49 seats until the new Congress is seated in January. Many Republican senators were attacked on the campaign trail by Democratic opponents for supporting the original Treasury bailout legislation last month and probably won't be in the mood to expand the program to the car companies," they write.
Nothing major expected out of the transition folks on Wednesday: Obama and Vice-President-elect Joe Biden are in "private meetings" in Chicago all day.
As for those Oval Office negotiations: "Obama's camp was mum today, but White House spokeswoman Dana Perino told reporters before the ceremony aboard the USS Intrepid that the president did not try to cut a deal with Obama on his stimulus request," ABC's Jennifer Duck and Mark Mooney report. Perino: "In no way did the president suggest a quid pro quo when it comes to the Colombian Free Trade agreement or other free trade agreements."