Obama Resigns From Senate, Names More Staffers

Once campaign rivals, President-elect Barack Obama and Sen. John McCain sat down in Chicago Monday to discuss how they can collaborate on issues facing the country. Video by AP
By Michael A. Fletcher
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, November 17, 2008

President-elect Barack Obama officially resigned from the Senate yesterday, removing himself from any official role in the lame-duck session of Congress that will convene this week. He also laid more groundwork for the start of his administration by deciding on additional members of his senior staff, including a White House counsel, and preparing to meet with another onetime political rival.

Obama is scheduled to meet today with Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), whom he defeated in the Nov. 4 presidential election, at his transition offices in downtown Chicago. The meeting comes days after the president-elect sat down separately with Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, both of whom opposed him in the Democratic primaries.

Obama and McCain clashed sharply during the hard-fought campaign, but they agreed on several issues, including the urgency of combating climate change and the general need to tone down the intense partisanship that often paralyzes official Washington.

"It's well known that they share an important belief that Americans want and deserve a more effective and efficient government, and will discuss ways to work together to make that a reality," said Obama spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter.

The president-elect announced his resignation from the Senate in a letter published in Illinois newspapers, telling his constituents, "I will never forget, and will forever be grateful, to the men and women of this great state who made my life in public service possible."

Saying that he is "ending one journey to begin another," Obama added that he is stepping down "to prepare for the responsibilities I will assume as our nation's next president." Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) has said he will appoint a replacement senator by the end of the year.

The action means Obama will not be part of the congressional debate this week over a stimulus package to jump-start the nation's struggling economy. He has said the package should include an extension of unemployment benefits and aid for the foundering auto industry, but prospects for passage of that type of plan appear slim.

So far this year, the nation has shed 1.2 million jobs, while many Americans have been buffeted by shrinking housing values and stock portfolios. At the same time, the nation's automakers are asking Washington for a $50 billion bailout package, to help them survive a sharp decline in sales as they attempt to revamp their plants to build more-fuel-efficient vehicles.

The Bush administration has been reluctant to let the auto industry tap the $700 billion in bailout funds approved by Congress earlier this fall, saying that it would rather expedite release of $25 billion in funds Congress previously passed to aid the automakers.

"If Congress does not pass an immediate plan that gives the economy the boost it needs, I will make it my first order of business as president," Obama said in his radio address over the weekend.

While Congress debates how best to help the economy, Obama is expected to continue building his governing team. Yesterday, the top tier of his White House staff came further into focus with several new selections.

Washington lawyer Gregory B. Craig will be White House counsel, according to a person involved in the transition, and Obama's Senate chief of staff, Peter M. Rouse, 62, was officially announced as a senior White House adviser. Two deputy chiefs of staff were also announced: Jim Messina and Mona K. Sutphen.

CONTINUED     1        >

© 2008 The Washington Post Company