WASHINGTON (CNN) - CNN has learned that President-elect Barack Obama and President Bush have privately agreed to try and come together again in January for a second post-election meeting at the White House, but this time they're inviting the three living former presidents as well.
Two sources familiar with the plans tell CNN that at their first post-election meeting in the Oval Office on Nov. 10, Obama proposed that the two men get together again before the inaugural along with former presidents Jimmy Carter, George Herbert Walker Bush and Bill Clinton.
The sources said the current President quickly agreed it would be a good idea and all sides are trying to make it happen somewhere between Jan. 1 and the Jan. 20 inaugural, though coordinating the schedules of five onetime commanders-in-chief can be difficult.
The high-powered meeting is another sign of how closely the Obama and Bush teams have been working together to try and make sure the first post-9/11 transfer of power goes smoothly.
"It's been unbelievably cooperative," said one Democratic official who was not authorized to speak publicly about the private conversations between the President and President-elect.
Update, 6:36 p.m.: The White House has confirmed that the meeting will take place on January 7. "President Bush will host a lunch for President-elect Obama and former Presidents Carter, Clinton, and Bush," White House Press Secretary Dana Perino told CNN. Perino also said the White House would release additional details about the meeting as January 7 approaches.
(CNN) - Prominent liberal groups and gay rights proponents criticized President-elect Barack Obama Wednesday for choosing evangelical pastor Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at the presidential inauguration next month.
Warren, one of the most powerful religious leaders in the nation, has championed issues such as calling for the reduction of global poverty, human rights abuses, and the AIDS epidemic.
But the founder of the Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California, has also adhered to socially conservative stances - including his opposition to gay marriage and abortion rights that puts him at odds with many in the Democratic Party, especially the party's most liberal wing.
"[It's] shrewd politics, but if anyone is under any illusion that Obama is interested in advancing gay equality, they should probably sober up now," Andrew Sullivan wrote on the Atlantic Web site Wednesday.
People for the American Way President Kathryn Kolbert told CNN she is "deeply disappointed" with the choice of Warren, and said the powerful platform at the inauguration should instead have been given to someone who is "consistent mainstream American values.
"There is no substantive difference between Rick Warren and James Dobson," Kolbert said. "The only difference is tone. His tone is moderate, but his ideas are radical."
Dobson, a social conservative leader, is founder and chairman of Focus on the Family.
Linda Douglass, a spokeswoman for Obama, defended the choice of Warren, saying, "This is going to be the most inclusive, open, accessible inauguration in American history."
"The president-elect certainly disagrees with him on [Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender] issues. But it has always been his goal to find common ground with people with whom you may disagree on some issues."
Douglass also noted Obama and Warren agree on several issues including advocating on behalf of the poor and the disadvantaged, and people who suffer from HIV/AIDS.
CHICAGO, Illinois (CNN) - Mary Schapiro will be President-elect Barack Obama's choice to head the Securities and Exchange Commission, two Democratic officials told CNN Wednesday.
Schapiro is CEO of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, the largest non-government regulator for all securities firms doing business with the U.S. public. She is a former SEC commissioner and served as chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission in 1994 during the Clinton Administration.
WASHINGTON (CNN) – When President-elect Barack Obama announced Arne Duncan as his choice to be Education secretary this week, he referenced Duncan’s career as a professional basketball player in Australia.
“I think we are putting together the best basketball-playing cabinet in American history,” Obama said.
And he might be right.
The president-elect is surrounding himself with advisors who might come from different backgrounds but share a common bond: basketball. This should not be much of a surprise seeing it is well known that Obama enjoys picking up a basketball and running the court.
So far, roughly a quarter of Obama’s cabinet choices have a history in the sport:
(CNN) – An Obama transition official says reports that the president-elect will release a stimulus plan with a trillion-dollar price tag are overblown, and that the actual figure being discussed is far smaller.
Some outside economists have pushed the trillion-dollar figure. One recent report suggested the transition team was working with an $850 billion plan. But this official describes the amount Obama advisors are currently considering as significantly lower than both.
Obama and his economic team met for four hours yesterday. They are still working on the package, which will not be announced before the president-elect returns from Hawaii later this month.
ST. PAUL, Minnesota (CNN) – A Minnesota justice hearing arguments from attorneys facing off in the year's last remaining Senate contest told a legal veteran of the 2000 presidential recount that his state is "not Florida."
Attorneys for both Republican Sen. Norm Coleman and Democratic challenger Al Franken presented their sides before the Minnesota Supreme Court Wednesday.
Speaking for Coleman before the panel of justices was attorney Roger Magnuson, no stranger to recount battles, who represented the Florida's state senate in Bush v. Gore.
If the state’s canvassing board includes any of the "improperly rejected absentee ballots" at the heart of the dispute, warned Magnuson, this race could easily turn into the debacle that ensued in Florida eight years ago.
He was immediately interrupted by Associate Justice Paul Anderson, who appeared to take serious issue with the analogy.
“I know you’ve been to Florida,” Anderson said. “This is not Florida. And I’m just not terribly receptive to you telling us that we’re going to Florida and we’re comparing to that. This is Minnesota. We’ve got a case in Minnesota. Argue the case in Minnesota.”
(CNN) – President-elect Barack Obama is expected to name Republican Rep. Ray LaHood of Illinois as his nominee for secretary of transportation, two sources told CNN Wednesday.
Fellow Illinois Republican Rep. Tim Johnson welcomed the selection of LaHood, whom he calls one of his closest friends in Congress.
"I think Ray has the ability to work both sides of the aisle well," Johnson said. "He's an extraordinarily talented legislator and from Illinois so from a provincial standpoint this would meet our needs well."
WASHINGTON (CNN) – Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, clearly remembers what happened to his predecessor in 2004. That is the year when congressional Republicans aimed their fire at then-Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, D-South Dakota, and helped defeat him.
In the 2004 election cycle, Republicans coined a new phrase that they said described obstruction in Washington: “Daschle Democrats.” The constant pounding by the GOP, President Bush’s landslide victory in South Dakota, and a strong candidate in John Thune, contributed to Daschle’s defeat. He had been in Congress since 1979, first as a congressman and then as a senator and eventually the Senate Democratic leader.
Reid succeeded Daschle as the senior Democrat in the Senate.
Even though the 2008 election is still fresh in everyone’s minds, Reid is looking ahead to 2010, hoping that what the GOP did to Daschle in 2004 is not repeated in two years.
WASHINGTON (CNN) – More than six weeks after voters headed to the polls, the final House race has been called in favor of the Democratic challenger in Virginia.
Tom Perriello has been certified as the winner in his race against Republican Rep. Virgil Goode. Perriello’s win means that Democrats will hold a 257-to-178 seat advantage over Republicans in the new Congress that will convene next month. Democrats picked up 21 seats in the 2008 election.
In the Senate, the close race in Minnesota between Al Franken and Republican Sen. Norm Coleman is still undecided. A state board convened this week to consider disputed ballots that will decide this contest.
–CNN Polling Director Keating Holland contributed to this report.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Vice President Dick Cheney had some blunt - and humorous - advice for incoming White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel at a private breakfast earlier this month, CNN has learned.
"The best thing you can do is keep your VP under control," Cheney told Emanuel, according to three sources familiar with the White House meeting that had previously not been disclosed publicly.
One of the sources, who was not authorized to speak publicly about the private meeting, said the room broke up in laughter because of Cheney's reputation for being a hard-charging vice president.
The meeting was called by current White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten, who decided to bring together 13 of his predecessors in the top job from both parties to try to offer Emanuel some bipartisan advice.
Among the attendees were Cheney and former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, each of whom served as chief of staff to President Gerald Ford. Other attendees included former Clinton chiefs John Podesta and Leon Panetta.
The sources familiar with the meeting told CNN that Rumsfeld advised Emanuel not to think he's indispensable, and told him that since it's a back-breaking job, he needs to identify his successor early. Rumsfeld's successor as Ford's chief of staff was Cheney.