In the day after his meeting with President George Bush, President-elect Barack Obama's stated goal of provided billions in aid to the struggling auto industry was furthered by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who announced Democrats will introduce legislation next week allowing the president to use funds from the $700 billion in funds allocated to stabilize the financial sector. Democrats believe they're getting signals from Bush that he'll support such a bill, but if not, Pelosi just has to wait 70 days to find support from the next president if she does not receive it from this one.
"In order to prevent the failure of one or more of the major American automobile manufacturers, which would have a devastating impact on our economy, particularly on the men and women who work in that industry, Congress and the Bush administration must take immediate action," Pelosi said in a statement. "I have asked Chairman Barney Frank of the House Financial Services Committee to work with House and Senate leaders, and with the Bush administration, to craft legislation to provide emergency and limited financial assistance to the automobile industry under the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act (EESA)."
Obama had asked Bush to help the Big Three automakers on the brink of bankruptcy, either through the $700 billion in economic stabilization funds or through the recently-passed $25 billion in federal loans to help automakers retool.
But today, news reports emerging from the conversation caused some annoyance in the White House, which disputed a version of the details of yesterday's meeting apparently leaked from the Obama team, suggesting that Obama's push for the president to support an economic stimulus package was met with a suggestion by Bush that linking the stimulus to a GOP-backed free trade agreement with Colombia might help it become law.
"In no way did President Bush suggest that there was a quid pro quo when it came to Colombia free trade agreement or the other free trade agreements," said White House press secretary Dana Perino. "They both shared their ideas as to what could be done to help improve the economy. President Bush has long stood for the free trade agreements. He believes that they can and should pass on their merits. We are a country that should be open to foreign investment and also we should try to continue to grow our export business, which has been one of the things -- the bright spots in our economy, even during this downturn."
Obama's incoming Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel spoke against any deals in an interview with George Stephanopoulos Sunday.
"The American people, right now, need help, economically," he said. "You have a package there that -- economic recovery act that deals with extending unemployment insurance, and given Friday's numbers, that's essential; aid and assistance to states to provide health care to those who are losing it. You don't link those essential needs to some other trade deal."
The president-elect started his day by placing a wreath at The John F. Kennedy War Memorial at Chicago's Soldier Field this morning, in commemoration of Veterans Day.
Obama was accompanied by a veteran of the Iraq war and director of the Illinois Veterans Department, Tammy Duckworth, who has been mentioned as a candidate for Obama's Senate seat and possibly the veterans' affairs secretary.
Obama is expected to announce Cabinet picks in the coming weeks. His new transition office officially opened today in the federal building in downtown Chicago for the team that has not relocated to the capital. Combined with the group in Washington, the transition team will ultimately employ 450 people with a budget of $12 million, $5.2 million of which has been allocated by Congress and the rest raised by private funds.
Today, Obama transition team chief John Podesta announced that the team will institute ethics rules prohibiting any donations from federal lobbyists.
According to the statement, "President-elect Barack Obama has pledged to change the way Washington works and curb the influence of lobbyists. During the campaign, federal lobbyists could not contribute to or raise money for the campaign. Today, the President-elect is taking those commitments even further by announcing the strictest, and most far reaching ethics rules of any transition team in history."
Federal lobbyists will not be able to contribute money to or raise money for the transition. They will be able to work on his team, with the stipulation that they could not lobby during that time, and they do not work on issues they've been working on for the previous 12 months.
During the start of his campaign, Obama promised that lobbyists would not work in his White House, but he weakened that statement before the primaries, pledging that lobbyists would not run his White House.
By the end of this week, the Obama transition team will disclose "Agency Review Teams" to begin preparing personnel and staffing for the next administration.