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Obama urges assistance for homeowners

The president-elect also calls for aid for the auto industry and names several White House staff members.

November 16, 2008|Rick Pearson | Pearson writes for the Chicago Tribune.

CHICAGO — President-elect Barack Obama is calling for a new program to help homeowners facing foreclosure from losing their homes, and some form of government aid for the nation's struggling auto industry.

In an interview with CBS' "60 Minutes" to be aired tonight, Obama said that efforts to restore the nation's economy "have not focused on foreclosures and what's happening to homeowners as much as I would like."

"We've got to . . . set up a negotiation between banks and borrowers so that people can stay in their homes," Obama said in a transcript of the interview released Saturday. ". . . . One thing I'm determined is that if we don't have a clear, focused program for homeowners by the time I take office, we will after I take office."

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. last week proposed a $24-billion plan aimed at providing incentives to lenders and offering government guarantees to offset any loss from loan modifications. The Bush White House has no plans to proceed with the program, but some Democrats in Congress may try to advance it during Obama's administration.

Obama also said that despite congressional reluctance to move ahead with government help for the auto companies, he was urging management and labor to work with suppliers and lenders to come up with a plan that could provide a "bridge loan" for a "sustainable" auto industry.

On Saturday, Obama also moved forward with the selection of key White House staff members, naming veteran Democratic congressional staffer Phil Schiliro to the post of administration lobbyist to push Obama's agenda on Capitol Hill.

Obama also named longtime friend and advisor Valerie Jarrett, a Chicago businesswoman and real estate developer, as a White House senior advisor on intergovernmental relations and a public liaison. Ron Klain, a former chief of staff to Vice President Al Gore, was named to that same post for Vice President-elect Joe Biden.

The staff announcements came as Obama prepared to meet Monday with his Republican rival for the presidency, Sen. John McCain of Arizona, as the Democrat's transition team looks for areas of cooperation with the GOP over the president-elect's agenda.

Also Saturday, Obama used the Democrats' weekly radio address to call for the returning Congress to approve a "down payment" on an economic rescue plan that he said was needed to boost jobs, extend unemployment benefits and help ease the financial burden on families.

"If this financial crisis has taught us anything, it's that we cannot have a thriving Wall Street while Main Street suffers," Obama said. "In this country, we rise or fall as one nation, as one people."

In a first, Obama was videotaped as he recorded the speech Friday and posted the video online at www.change.gov. When he takes office, he plans to continue the practice for what had been a customary weekly presidential radio address. Aides said the move was an effort to make the White House and the political process more transparent.

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