Obama reviews Bush orders on stem cells, drilling
WASHINGTON – President-elect Obama's transition chief said Sunday the incoming administration is reviewing President Bush's executive orders on stem cell research, oil and gas drilling and other matters.
John Podesta said the president can use such orders to move quickly without waiting for Congress to act, highlighting the extraordinary powers a president can wield beyond signing legislation approved by Congress. Podesta said people should expect Obama to use those powers to reverse many policies of the Bush administration.
"I think across the board, on stem cell research, on a number of areas, you see the Bush administration even today moving aggressively to do things that I think are probably not in the interest of the country," Podesta said in a broadcast interview.
"There's a lot that the president can do using his executive authority without waiting for congressional action, and I think we'll see the president do that," Podesta said.
President Bush has limited federal spending on stem cell research, a position championed by opponents of abortion rights. Obama has supported the research in an effort to find cures for diseases such as Alzheimer's.
Also, the federal Bureau of Land Management is opening about 360,000 acres of public land in Utah to oil and gas drilling, leading to protests from environmentalists.
"They want to have oil and gas drilling in some of the most sensitive, fragile lands in Utah," Podesta said. "I think that's a mistake."
Podesta also said Obama is working to build a Cabinet that is diverse. That includes reaching out to Republicans and independents — part of the broad coalition that supported Obama during the race against Republican John McCain.
A top House Republican said there is a willingness to try to work with Obama to get things done. But Rep. Eric Cantor also said to expect Republicans to serve as a check against the power held by Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat from California.
"There is going to be, I think, a willingness to try and get things done," Cantor said. "But at the end of the day I think you will see a Republican Party in Congress serving as a check and a balance against Mr. Obama's power and Speaker Pelosi's power."
Cantor, a Virginia Republican, is running to be the second-ranking Republican in the House — the job of minority whip.
Cantor and Podesta spoke on "Fox News Sunday."
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