Economy likely to dominate Obama-Bush discussion

November 10th, 2008 - 11:53 am ICT by IANS  

Washington, Nov 10 (IANS) US president-elect Barack Obama is already examining ways to make a quick impact upon taking office in January, his aides said on the eve of Monday’s transition talks with President George W. Bush.The Obama-Bush talks at the White House are likely to cover “a broad range of issues”, but the slumping US economy is expected to dominate the discussion, John Podesta, one of the transition team’s co-chairs, told CNN’s “Late Edition”.

“They need to cover a broad range of issues, from national security affairs, where we are on homeland security. But I think he’ll also want to spend a good deal of time on where things stand on the economy,” he said.

“I think it was very gracious of President Bush to invite him so early - usually it happens a little later in the process,” Valerie Jarrett, the other co-chair, told reporters Sunday.

“I’m sure they’ll be open and frank as I’m sure they’ve always been able to talk to one another,” Jarrett said. “So I think it’s a good sign for this country that they’re having this meeting when they’re having it, and we look forward to the days and weeks ahead.”

Podesta said cooperation with Bush administration officials had been “excellent” since Tuesday’s election.

As Bush and Obama talk at the president’s Oval Office Monday afternoon, First Lady Laura Bush will take Obama’s wife, Michelle, on a tour of the executive mansion.

Meanwhile, Obama will also push Congress to enact “at least part” of an economic package before he takes office in January, but the problems Americans face need short-term and long-term approaches, Podesta said.

“It’s clear that we need to stabilise the economy, to deal with the financial meltdown that’s now spreading across the rest of the economy. The auto industry is really, really back on its heels,” he said.

Obama’s designated White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel said the government needs to consider “fast-forwarding” $25 billion in low-interest loans already approved by Congress to help the Big Three US automakers - Ford, Chrysler and General Motors - retool for more efficient vehicles.

“They are an essential part of our economy and our industrial base,” Emanuel told CBS’ “Face the Nation”.

“There are existing authorities within the government today that the administration should tap to help the auto industry,” he added.

Podesta said Congress could extend unemployment benefits for laid-off workers and provide assistance to states grappling with increased Medicaid costs quickly. But he said efforts to improve schools, expand healthcare coverage and wean the nation’s energy industry away from imported fuels “need to be tackled together”.

The incoming administration is conducting an extensive review of Bush’s executive orders, looking for quick changes that Obama can make from his first day in office, he told Fox News Sunday.

“As a candidate, Senator Obama said he wanted all the Bush executive orders reviewed and decide which ones should be kept and which ones should be repealed and which ones should be amended, and that process is going on. Its been undertaken,” Podesta said.

He said Obama’s team will be “looking to see where we can move forward, whether that’s on energy transformation, on improving health care, on stem cell research”.

Podesta said there is a lot the president can do without waiting for Congress, and voters can expect to see Obama do so to try to restore “a sense that the country is working on behalf of the common good”.

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