WASHINGTON -- On the eve of President-elect Barack Obama's visit to the White House, top aides prodded Congress to act quickly on new federal aid to the middle class, the devastated auto industry and people facing high energy bills.
"The American people, right now, need help economically," incoming White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel said Sunday on ABC's This Week With George Stephanopoulos.
In a series of interviews Sunday, Emanuel and Obama transition team chief John Podesta said the president-elect has a set of priorities on which he wants quick action. They include:
• A stimulus plan to boost the sinking economy by extending unemployment benefits, helping states provide health insurance and creating jobs by building roads, bridges and other infrastructure.
• Help for the auto industry, which is reeling from the financial crisis. Emanuel also said the current administration can rush the spending of a $25 billion loan package to help companies retool their factories to develop more fuel-efficient cars.
• Repealing some of President Bush's more controversial executive orders, including those restricting federal money for embryonic stem cell research and making certain public lands in Utah available for oil and gas drilling, Podesta told Fox News Sunday.
"There's a lot that the president can do using his executive authority without waiting for congressional action," Podesta said.
White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said every new administration makes policy changes. She said Bush's orders "are in the best interest of the nation."
• Keeping the economic plan Obama pushed during the campaign after he is sworn into office on Jan. 20. That includes repealing Bush's tax cuts for wealthier people while providing new tax cuts for middle-class and working families who face higher bills for energy, education and health care, Emanuel said.
Obama's "tax plan is a net tax reduction," he told CBS' Face The Nation.
Bush and Obama are slated for a midafternoon "private" meeting at the White House. "I'm sure they'll speak about a range of issues," Perino said.
First lady Laura Bush will meet with Michelle Obama and give a tour of the private residence.