Thursday, January 22, 2009

Obama and the First 100 Days

Since the Presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt, Americans have sought to judge their Commander-in-Chief by the number of important actions he takes within his first 100 days in office.

So what can we expect from President Barack Obama?

Actions Taken Already

Within hours of the new President taking the oath of office, the White House made their intentions to close the prisons at Guantanamo Bay clear. The military tribunals ceased yesterday and today President Obama has signed an executive order to close the prisons (within a year) and stop tribunals at "Gitmo", along with another executive order to ban the use of torture.

In addition, Obama signed a third executive order prohibiting lobbyists to work for the White House in a role which they once lobbied and denies his staff from lobbying the White House after they leave public office

Economic Stimulus

The most pressing issue President Obama will seek to act on is the weakening economy. After the confirmation of Treasury Secretary Tim Giethner, prospects for a stimulus package look brighter.

"We have to do everything in our power and Congress does too to get that package moving, to get that money into the economy ... to give the American people some confidence going forward," said White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs at the first White House Press Conference of the Obama Administration.

Many expect an economic stimulus bill to be on the President's desk early next month.

Open Government Directive

The new President said today that he has asked his senior aides to draft an "Open Government Directive" with specific actions to be implemented in order to increase government transparency. He is giving them no more than 120 days.

Backburner Democratic Legislation

For years the Democrats in Congress have tried to pass several pieces of legislation, but have either been blocked by filibuster or denied by a Bush veto. Now with a nearly filibuster-proof Senate and more progressive President, they are ready to make these bills law.

SCHIP expansion passed the House yesterday with overwhelming approval. The Senate will now take it up within the next few days. As one of the principle pieces of legislation that Democrats have hoped to pass, this can be expected as among the first President Obama will sign.

The Lilly Ledbetter Bill to grant pay equity to women also passed the House yesterday and will also soon come before the Senate. Obama is expected to sign this into law as well.

The Employee Free Choice Act may not be signed within 100 days - but it will certainly be law soon. Obama has stood by the bill previously and the unions will be sure to pressure Congress to pass the card check legislation as soon as they can.

Other bills that Obama has vowed to support - particularly gay-rights legislation such as the Employee Non-Discrimination Act and expansion of what constitutes a hate crime - will probably stay on the backburner for a little while longer due to their controversial outlook in Congress. Nonetheless, we would expect them to be signed in this term.

In the end, the number of actions taken in the first 100 hours does not typically define a Presidency - and it would not be prudent to judge Obama by his first 100 days at this point in history.

But by the actions he has already taken and the decisions we expect to see him make soon, he is making it fairly obvious that the tides have changed.

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