On 4 November 2008, the United States elected Senator Barack Obama the nation's 44th President. President-elect Obama has established a transition team and chosen Illinois Representative and Washington, DC, power broker Rahm Emanuel to be his White House Chief of Staff. The Obama camp has now announced that it has begun to look at what changes President-elect Obama would make in his first days as president. Transition team leader John Podesta has indicated that the President-elect is working toward building a diverse Cabinet, to include reaching out to Republicans and Independents. Podesta has also stated that President-elect Obama is expected to overturn several of President Bush's executive orders including those on stem cell research, oil and gas drilling, among others.

As the President-elect works to identify his Cabinet, members of the Bush Administration are packing up. Assistant Secretary of Environmental Management at the Department of Energy, James Rispoli, has announced that he will leave the Department at the end of November. Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman in a 5 November statement, said, "Jim provided strong leadership and achieved significant success as the Assistant Secretary for Environmental Management (EM) for the past three years. He enhanced the credibility of the EM program by instituting rigorous management practices during both the project planning and execution phases, and greatly improved the daily operations of the organization."

Post-election change in Washington, DC, is not limited to the White House. In Congress, Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV) has volunteered to step down as chairman of the Senate's powerful Appropriations Committee. Senator Byrd, 90, released a statement 5 November saying, "I have been blessed to have had the honor to represent the people of West Virginia in the United States Senate for 50 years. I have been honored to lead the Senate as its Majority Leader for 12 years. A new day has dawned in Washington, and that is a good thing. For my part, I believe that it is time for a new day at the top of the Senate Appropriations Committee. I will step away from the Chairmanship of the Appropriations Committee effective January 6, 2009." Senator Daniel Inouye (D-HI) is slated to take the reigns as Chairman of the Appropriations Committee. Senator Byrd said of Inouye, he "has stood in line for many years and now his time has come. He is my friend. He is a genuine American hero. He will be a skillful and fair Chairman of the Appropriations Committee because he is a man of outstanding character and great wisdom."

On the other side of Capitol Hill, the progressive and moderate wings of the Democratic Party have already begun to skirmish over control of the House's powerful committees. Representative Henry Waxman (D-CA) is challenging Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman, Representative John Dingell (D-MI), the Dean of the House, for control of the powerful committee. Some liberal Democrats and environmentalists have seen Dingell as an ally of automakers and electric utilities and thus an obstruction to moving climate change legislation through the House. However, Dingell and Representative Rick Boucher (D-VA) released a draft discussion on climate change legislation on 7 October. The plan would reportedly reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent below 2005 levels by 2050. This would be in line with President-elect Obama's proposal. Neither the House Majority nor the Obama team has taken sides on the issue. It remains to be seen if the battle between Waxman and Dingell is an isolated fight or the first in what some believe might be internal Democratic squabbles between the progressive and moderate wings of the party.

 


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