WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President-elect Joe Biden is expected to name former Obama administration adviser Neera Tanden as director of the White House budget office, and economist Cecilia Rouse as chair of the Council of Economic Advisers as soon as Monday, according to a person familiar with the process.
Biden is also expected to pick Wally Adeyemo, who was senior international economic adviser under President Barack Obama, to serve as Janet Yellen’s top deputy at the Treasury Department. Economists Jared Bernstein and Heather Boushey are expected to be named as members of the Council of Economic Advisers, the person said.
Biden picked Brian Deese, another adviser under Obama, to head the White House National Economic Council, the New York Times reported, citing three people with knowledge of the matter.
Biden’s transition team declined to comment, while Tanden, Rouse, Adeyemo, Bernstein, Boushey and Deese could not be reached for comment.
Biden’s economic picks have been the subject of a tug-of-war between Democratic centrists, who mainly want a return to expertise and competence, and progressives, who want dramatic steps to fulfill a key Democratic campaign promise to make U.S. capitalism fairer for all. The nominations of Tanden, Rouse and Adeyemo require Senate confirmation.
Just like in 2009 with Obama, whom Biden served as vice president, the incoming administration will inherit on Jan. 20 a struggling economy facing serious near-term challenges.
But this time, the economic blow dealt by the coronavirus pandemic has laid bare dramatic wealth and racial disparities that progressives want Biden’s team to tackle swiftly. They have leaned hard on him to shun corporate lobbyists and prioritize diverse picks.
The economic selections so far represent “broad diversity, deep expertise, long Washington experience,” said Matt Bennett, co-founder of centrist Democratic political consultancy Third Way, and “a return to competence and sanity.” They are “not deeply ideological,” he said.
The appointment of Tanden, who heads the Center for American Progress left-leaning think tank, is likely to draw some criticism from the left.
Tanden, who was a healthcare adviser to Obama and before that an adviser to Democrat Hillary Clinton, sparred with the progressive camp over the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination.
FOCUS ON INEQUALITY
Rouse, a labor economist at Princeton University whose research has focused on the economics of education and tackling wealth inequality, is well-liked by progressives. She previously served as a member of Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers.
Rouse has criticized the Trump administration’s economic response to the pandemic, noting in an April Princeton University podcast that small-business aid had fallen short. She also spoke in favor of more direct aid to workers through their employers, and expressed concern about the impact the pandemic would have on worsening income disparity.
Adeyemo was a senior White House national security adviser for international economics during the Obama administration, as well as a top aide to former Treasury Secretary Jack Lew. He is currently president of the Obama Foundation.
Bernstein served as Biden’s chief economic adviser as the Obama administration fought to pull the United States out of the Great Recession.
He was tasked here with calculating and explaining how many jobs Obama’s hard-fought recovery act saved in 2009, and was widely expected to have a similarly prominent role in a Biden administration.
Boushey is known for research focusing on how inequality can hinder economic growth. The chief executive and co-founder of the Washington Center for Equitable Growth, a progressive economic think tank, Boushey has been working with the Biden team as an unofficial economic adviser.
Nearly 14 million Americans are receiving unemployment benefits that expire on Dec. 26, and the coronavirus’ continued surge means there is no telling when they might be able to go back to work. Biden’s economic agenda is likely to focus on getting the country past the coronavirus crisis, both as a health and economic issue.
A lot will depend on passage of a pandemic relief package and the distribution of a vaccine that is expected in early 2021. After that will follow what Bernstein described before the election as the “more permanent lasting agenda” of investments in clean energy and broadening healthcare coverage.
Reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt, Heather Timmons and Valerie Volcovici; Additional reporting by Jonelle Marte in New York, Heather Jason Lange in Washington, and Maria Ponnezhath in Bengaluru; Editing by Diane Craft and Peter Cooney
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