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Democrats want a more assertive Obama

Democrats want a more assertive Obama

Posted: Friday, December 5, 2008 9:12 pm
By: AP

 WASHINGTON (AP) — Democrats are growing impatient with President-elect Barack Obama’s refusal to inject himself in the major economic crises confronting the country. Obama has sidestepped some policy questions by saying there is only one president at a time. But the dodge is wearing thin. “He’s going to have to be more assertive than he’s been,” House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank, D-Mass., told consumer advocates Thursday. Frank, who has been dealing with both the bailout of the financial industry and a proposed rescue of Detroit automakers, said Obama needs to play a more significant role on economic issues. “At a time of great crisis with mortgage foreclosures and autos, he says we only have one president at a time,” Frank said. “I’m afraid that overstates the number of presidents we have. He’s got to remedy that situation.” Obama has maintained one of the most public images of any president-elect. He has held half a dozen press conferences, where he has entertained question after question about the economy, the mortgage crisis, and the flailing auto industry. He called for passage of extended unemployment benefits — which has passed — and even a stimulus package if possible before Jan. 20. But he has stayed away from trying to dictate remedies for the toughest problems Congress is confronting: the auto industry’s troubles and how to spend the $700 billion bailout. Frank’s remarks came as the Bush administration considers whether it needs the second half of the $700 billion of the Troubled Asset Relief Program aimed at helping the financial sector before Obama takes office on Jan. 20. An Obama official said the Bush administration reached out to the transition team about tapping into the money. The official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the talks, said Obama’s transition team urged the administration to talk to bipartisan congressional leaders and assemble a meeting between the White House and Congress. The official said the Obama team offered to participate in a bipartisan meeting if it would be helpful. Earlier this week, Obama was asked whether he worried that Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson might begin spending the next installment of the money before he assumes the presidency. Obama demurred. “Until Secretary Paulson indicates publicly that he’s drawing down the second tranche, the second half of the TARP money, it would be speculation on my part to suggest that that money’s going to be used up,” he told reporters at a Chicago news conference Wednesday. Obama did stress that a significant component of the fund should be used to reduce the number of foreclosures. But he did not specify a particular remedy. He also declined to take a stand in a debate over the source of money for an auto loan package. The dispute has divided Democrats and hindered progress on assistance for the industry. At issue is whether to take money from the $700 billion designated for the financial sector or to take it from a previously approved loan aimed at manufacturing more energy efficient cars. “I think it’s premature to get into that issue,” Obama said at the conference. Presidents-elect typically spend the transition period assembling their cabinets, their White House staff and preparing to take the reins of power. But this transition is occurring at an extraordinary time, with bad economic news mounting by the day and with one of the country’s major industries begging for a hand to keep from collapsing. Published in The Messenger 12.5.08

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