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Obama promises a break with business as usual

world Updated: Jan 23, 2009 12:55 IST
Oliver Burkeman
Oliver Burkeman
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US President Barack Obama told his White House staff on Wednesday they could expect “a clean break with business as usual”, including a tightening of the rules on lobbyists working in government, and a salary freeze for aides earning more than $100,000.

“During this period of economic emergency, families are tightening their belts, and so should Washington,” Obama told about 50 of his senior staff members and the watching press, early in the afternoon of his first full day in office. “And that’s why I am instituting a pay freeze on the salaries of my senior White House staff.” He also announced a ban on staff receiving gifts from lobbyists, and promised a big improvement in public access to government documents.

The White House event also included the swearing-in of Obama’s senior staff, a ritual administered by the vice-president, Joe Biden, who made a point of asking for a copy of the oath.

“My memory is not as good as Justice Roberts’s,” he said, in a teasing reference to the chief justice, who mangled part of Obama’s swearing-in on Tuesday, prompting the incoming president to stumble on his words.

“Let me say how proud I am of all of you, what a moment we are in,” said Obama, who spent some minutes welcoming each employee personally, with hugs and back-slapping.