WASHINGTON — Barack Obama told House Democrats on Tuesday that as president he would order his attorney general to scour White House executive orders and expunge any that "trample on liberty," several lawmakers said.
Presidents, as head of the executive branch of government, issue such orders to direct operations of executive branch agencies, like the Justice Department and the CIA. For example, President Bush used an executive order last year to breathe new life into the CIA's controversial terror interrogation program that allowed harsh questioning of suspects.Obama "talked about how his attorney general is to review every executive order and immediately eliminate those that trample on liberty," said Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y.
"He indicated there would be a review in his administration," said Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., the House majority whip.
Obama did not mention executive orders when he addressed reporters who waited for him outside the closed-door meeting. He said only that he would be campaigning alongside members to win the presidency and help expand Democratic majorities in the House and Senate.
"I am looking forward to collaborating with everyone here to win the election, but more importantly to collaborate with everybody here and also some like-minded Republicans to actually govern and to deliver on behalf of the American people," Obama said.
During his presidency, Bush increasingly has relied on executive orders to dictate policies without seeking congressional approval. His orders have ranged from restrictions on striped bass fishing to sanctions against Myanmar's government.
Obama did not indicate who his attorney general would be, or any other member of his Cabinet. To lawmakers who asked about his Cabinet plans, Obama said: "Get me elected, and then I'll worry about the Cabinet," according to Nadler.
Clyburn added that Obama said there were "people in the room with more expertise than him."
Obama's meeting with the House Democratic caucus came hours after he spoke with both Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke about the faltering economy, part of his effort to refocus the campaign on domestic issues after last week's foreign trip.
Obama spokesman Michael Ortiz said the senator and Bernanke discussed the outlook for consumers and businesses, as well as the effect of rising home foreclosures on families nationwide. They also talked about the "strengths of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and other financial institutions," Ortiz said.
Obama called Paulson as he rode to a meeting with Pakistan's new prime minister, the campaign said.
A campaign statement said Obama asked how the Treasury Department planned to use its new authority with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and whether the government had the tools it needs to address the challenges in the banking industry. As part of the government's effort to provide mortgage relief to hundreds of thousands of homeowners, Paulson has sought emergency power to rescue lending giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
Congress approved a housing plan last week that would provide relief for 400,000 homeowners who can't afford their payments by allowing them to refinance their mortgages with more affordable, government-backed loans. President Bush has promised to sign the package into law.
In a day of meetings, Obama also met with Pakistan's new leader, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani.
At a fundraising luncheon, he said he told Gilani "the only way we're going to be successful in the long term in defeating extremists ... is if we are giving people opportunities. If people have a chance for a better life, then they are not as likely to turn to the ideologies of violence and despair."