11/9/2008, "Obama Positioned to Quickly Reverse Bush Actions," Washington Post, Ceci Connolly and R. Jeffrey Smith
"Transition advisers to President-elect Barack Obama have compiled a list
of about 200 Bush administration actions and executive orders that
could be swiftly undone to reverse White House policies on climate
change, stem cell research, reproductive rights and other issues,
according to congressional Democrats, campaign aides and experts working
with the transition team.
A team of four dozen advisers, working for months in virtual solitude,
set out to identify regulatory and policy changes Obama could implement
soon after his inauguration. The team is now consulting with liberal
advocacy groups, Capitol Hill staffers and potential agency chiefs to
prioritize those they regard as the most onerous or ideologically
offensive, said a top transition official who was not permitted to speak
on the record about the inner workings of the transition.
In some instances, Obama would be quickly delivering on promises he made
during his two-year campaign, while in others he would be embracing
Clinton-era policies upended by President Bush during his eight years in
"The kind of regulations they are looking at" are those imposed by Bush
for "overtly political" reasons, in pursuit of what Democrats say was a
partisan Republican agenda, said Dan Mendelson, a former associate
administrator for health in the Clinton administration's Office of
Management and Budget. The list of executive orders targeted by Obama's
team could well get longer in the coming days, as Bush's appointees rush
to enact a number of last-minute policies in an effort to extend his
transition spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter said. "Any decisions would need
to be discussed with his Cabinet nominees, none of whom have been
Still, the preelection transition team, comprising mainly lawyers, has
positioned the incoming president to move fast on high-priority items
without waiting for Congress.
Obama himself has signaled, for example, that he intends to reverse
Bush's controversial limit on federal funding of embryonic stem cell
research, a decision that scientists say has restrained research into
some of the most promising avenues for defeating a wide array of
diseases, such as Parkinson's....
But Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) said that during Obama's final swing
through her state in October, she reminded him that because the
restrictions were never included in legislation, Obama "can simply
reverse them by executive order." Obama, she said, "was very receptive
to that." Opponents of the restrictions have already drafted an
executive order he could sign....
While Obama said at a news conference last week that his top priority
would be to stimulate the economy and create jobs, his advisers say that
focus will not delay key shifts in social and regulatory policies,
including some -- such as the embrace of new environmental safeguards --
that Obama has said will have long-term, beneficial impacts on the
The president-elect has said, for example, that he intends to quickly
reverse the Bush administration's decision last December to deny
California the authority to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from
automobiles. "Effectively tackling global warming demands bold and
innovative solutions, and given the failure of this administration to
act, California should be allowed to pioneer," Obama said in January.
California had sought permission from the Environmental Protection
Agency to require that greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles be cut by
30 percent between 2009 and 2016, effectively mandating that cars
achieve a fuel economy standard of at least 36 miles per gallon within
eight years. Seventeen other states had promised to adopt California's
rules, representing in total 45 percent of the nation's automobile
market. Environmentalists cheered the California initiative because it
would stoke innovation that would potentially benefit the entire
"An early move by the Obama administration to sign the California waiver
would signal the seriousness of intent to reduce the nation's
dependence on foreign oil and build a future for the domestic auto
market," said Kevin Knobloch, president of the Union of Concerned
Before the election, Obama told others that he favors declaring that
carbon dioxide emissions are endangering human welfare, following an EPA
task force recommendation last December that Bush and his aides shunned
in order to protect the utility and auto industries.
Robert Sussman, who was the EPA's deputy administrator during the
Clinton administration and is now overseeing EPA transition planning for
Obama, wrote a paper last spring strongly recommending such a finding.
Others in the campaign have depicted it as an issue on which Obama is
keen to show that politics must not interfere with scientific advice.
Some related reforms embraced by Obama's transition advisers would alter
procedures for decision-making on climate issues. A book titled "Change
for America," being published next week by the Center for American
Progress, an influential liberal think tank, will recommend, for
example, that Obama rapidly create a National Energy Council to
coordinate all policymaking related to global climate change.
The center's influence with Obama is substantial: It was created by
former Clinton White House official John D. Podesta, a co-chairman of
the transition effort, and much of its staff has been swept into
planning for Obama's first 100 days in office.
The National Energy Council would be a counterpart to the White House
National Economic Council that Clinton created in a 1993 executive
"It would make sure all the oars are rowing in the right direction" and
ensure that climate change policy "gets lots of attention inside the
White House," said Daniel J. Weiss, a former Sierra Club official and
senior fellow with the Center for American Progress Action Fund.
The center's new book will also urge Obama to sign an executive order
requiring that greenhouse gas emissions be considered whenever the
federal government examines the environmental impact of its actions
under the existing National Environmental Policy Act. Several key
members of Obama's transition team have already embraced the idea.
Other early Obama initiatives may address the need for improved food and
drug regulation and chart a new course for immigration enforcement,
some Obama advisers say. But they add that only a portion of his early
efforts will be aimed at undoing Bush initiatives.
Despite enormous pent-up Democratic frustration, Obama and his team
realize they must strike a balance between undoing Bush actions and
setting their own course, said Winnie Stachelberg, the center's senior
vice president for external affairs.
"It took eight years to get into this mess, and it will take a long time
to get out of it," she said. "The next administration needs to look
ahead. This transition team and the incoming administration gets that in
a big way."
"Staff writers Juliet Eilperin, Spencer S. Hsu and Carol D. Leonnig
and staff researcher Madonna Lebling contributed to this report."
Likewise in Nov. 2016 a new US president can reverse hundreds of unilateral Obama admin. actions with the stroke of a pen:
3/8/15, "Republicans Warn Iran -- and Obama -- That Deal Won't Last," Bloomberg View, Josh Rogin
"A group of 47 Republican senators has written an open letter
to Iran's leaders warning them that any nuclear deal they sign with
President Barack Obama's administration won’t last after Obama leaves
“It has come to our attention while observing your nuclear negotiations
with our government that you may not fully understand our constitutional
system … Anything not approved by Congress is a mere executive
agreement,” the senators wrote. “The next president could revoke such an
executive agreement with the stroke of a pen and future Congresses
could modify the terms of the agreement at any time.”...
Senators from both parties are united in an insistence that, at some
point, the administration will need their buy-in for any nuclear deal
with Iran to succeed. There’s no sign yet that Obama believes this --
or, if he does, that he plans to engage Congress in any meaningful way."