President George W Bush is planning to push through a series of potentially unpopular regulation changes in his final weeks in office | By Alex Spillius | IHT.com
Democrats fear the president will try to ram through new rules on the environment, civil liberties and abortion rights before December 20, the deadline for changes before the new president is inaugurated a month later. The alterations could take months or years to undo.
Attorney General Michael Mukasey has already rushed out new guidelines for the FBI that make domestic surveillance easier, including the use of informants to infiltrate lawful groups and prolonged physical surveillance.
Green campaigners fear the Environmental Protection Agency may issue a rule that would weaken provisions of the Clean Air Act, which required utility companies to install modern pollution measures when they expand capacity.
Michael Leavitt, the secretary of health and human services, is believed to be planning to extend the right of doctors and nurses to refuse to participate in abortions to a wider range of health care workers. The right to refuse the provision of the birth control pill, emergency contraception and abortion referrals may also be added.
“Every transition is complicated. This is not a parliamentary system. We have no shadow government in place,” said Stephen Hess, a US presidential expert at the non-partisan Brookings Institution in Washington.
Mr Bush has vowed “complete co-operation” with his successor but has made it clear he will pursue his own policy goals during his remaining 75 days in office.
He publicly congratulated President-elect Barack Obama on his victory, saying said he had telephoned the triumphant Democrat to invite him and wife Michelle Obama to the White House “as soon as possible”.
“I told the President-elect he can count on complete co-operation from my administration as he makes the transition to the White House,” the outgoing president said in a three-minute statement in the Rose Garden.
He made no mention of consulting Mr Obama but promised to keep him “fully informed on important decisions”. He stressed that “there’s important work to do in the months ahead.
“The United States government will stay vigilant in meeting its most important responsibility — protecting the American people. And the world can be certain this commitment will remain steadfast under our next commander-in-chief,” Mr Bush said.
Behinds the scenes, the White House pursued efforts to make sure that Obama’s team can “hit the ground running” at a time of global economic crisis and as tens of thousands of US troops fight wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, aides said.
Mr Bush requested $8.5 million (£5 million) in funding from his 2009 budget for the transition, which will see the president-elect’s team given office space in Washington.
He has also created a transition commission of senior national security and economic aides who will be giving their designated successors briefings or running them through exercises to simulate responses to natural disasters or terrorist attacks.