It may seem as if Barack Obama has been president-elect for months. But it was only Thursday that he officially gained that status, as Congress met in a joint session to certify the vote of the Electoral College.

Vice President Dick Cheney presided over the ceremony, which provided a gratifying moment for Democrats who have raged against the Republican administration ever since the disputed election of 2000.

"All I can think about is how, in such a short period of time, there has been such a dramatic change politically and emotionally," said Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y. "Never give up on your country, because she will come back and surprise you."

Republicans joined Democrats in a standing ovation as Cheney, in his role as president of the Senate, announced that Obama had achieved a majority of votes and would be the 44th president.


Obama appointed a defense contractor's lobbyist Thursday to become his No. 2 official at the Defense Department, breaking his self-imposed rule of keeping lobbyists at arm's length.

William J. Lynn III was senior vice president for government operations at Raytheon Co. and lobbied as recently as June on issues including missiles, sensors, radar, advanced technology programs and intelligence funding.

Obama's transition team said Lynn was worth the apparent exception to the spirit of Obama's anti-lobbyists policy. It said it will work with Lynn to maintain Obama's high ethics standards.

Also Thursday, Clinton-era Pentagon aide Michele Flournoy was tapped for the No. 3 Pentagon job as policy chief. Flournoy has helped to lead Obama's Pentagon transition team.

obama officially taps Kaine for dnc

Barack Obama formally named Virginia Gov. Timothy Kaine chairman of the Democratic National Committee Thursday.

At a news conference, Obama said he and Kaine share a "pragmatic, progressive philosophy" about politics and governing based primarily on results rather than ideology.

"It's a philosophy that measures the strength of an idea not by whether it's Republican or Democrat, but whether it can actually solve a problem and make a difference in people's lives," Obama said.


Former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, Obama's choice to lead a major heath reform effort, cruised through his first confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill on Thursday, suggesting an early bipartisan willingness to tackle the difficult issue.

Daschle, whom Obama has nominated to head the Department of Heath and Human Services, assured members of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions that the new administration would cooperate with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. "It's the only way we're going to get this done," he said.

Daschle faces a second hearing later this month before the Senate Finance Committee, which will vote before the nomination is expected to go before the full Senate.


In an unusually blunt letter, a group of federal scientists complained to the Obama transition team of widespread managerial misconduct in a division of the Food and Drug Administration.

"The purpose of this letter is to inform you that the scientific review process for medical devices at the FDA has been corrupted and distorted by current FDA managers, thereby placing the American people at risk," said the letter, dated Wednesday, on the letterhead of the agency's Center for Devices and Radiological Health.

The center is responsible for medical devices ranging from stents and breast implants to MRIs and other imaging machinery. The concerns echo some of the complaints from the FDA's drug review division a few years ago during the safety debacle involving the painkiller Vioxx.

The FDA said it is working to address the concerns.