Congress orders Obama to pave way for his successor – soon

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Under a new law passed by Congress, President Barack Obama must prepare for the transition to his successor. And he must do it soon – perhaps as early as May.

The legislation, which the House approved on Feb. 29 and the Senate passed last year, requires Obama to establish a pair of transition councils six months before the November election.

President Barack Obama walks down the colonnade from the Oval Office at The White House in Washington, January 12, 2016. /Reuters/Mary F. Calvert
President Barack Obama walks down the colonnade from the Oval Office at The White House on Jan. 12. /Reuters/Mary F. Calvert

The new law, which was 15 years in the making, is designed to help the government withstand the departure of hundreds of political appointees before Obama’s term ends and to assist the major candidates with staffing the government upon taking office.

“An outgoing administration, even under current law, is in essence required to do nothing to hand off in an effective way. This legislation changes that,” said Max Stier, founding president and CEO of the Partnership for Public Service, which last month established a Center for Presidential Transition to help candidates navigate the process.

So the Obama administration could be meeting with advisers to both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton — or Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz and Bernie Sanders — before they even accept their party’s nominations in July.

Although the new legislation mandates the Obama administration offer services and assistance to the campaigns, it doesn’t force the candidates to accept those services.

Many analysts wonder if Donald Trump would accept assistance from an administration whose officials he routinely denounces as “stupid” and “incompetent”.

“They can walk in and be unprepared and be ill-prepared if they so choose, but there’s no reason for them to do it because we’re making it real easy for them,” Stier said.

“It doesn’t matter whether you’re an establishment or an anti-establishment candidate, you still need to be ready on Day 1 to run our country, and that’s what this is about.”

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