Nov 29, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Biden turns to experienced hands for White House economic team

Illustration of the white house on the back of a dollar with a now hiring sign hanging from it
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Joe Biden plans to announce Cecilia Rouse and Brian Deese as part of his economic team and Neera Tanden to head the Office of Management and Budget, sources tell Axios.

Why it matters: These are experienced hands. Unveiling a diverse group of advisers also may draw attention away from a selection of Deese to run the National Economic Council. Some progressives have criticized his work at BlackRock, the world's largest asset management firm.

Details: Rouse, dean of the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs, will be nominated to chair the Council of Economic Advisers. If confirmed, she would be the first Black woman to lead the organization. She is also the daughter-in-law of the late novelist Toni Morrison.

  • Heather Boushey and Jared Bernstein, Biden's first economic adviser as vice president, also are expected to round out the CEA.
  • Tanden, president of the Center for American Progress and a former top adviser to Hillary Clinton, could face a rocky confirmation. Republicans tangled with her over the Affordable Care Act, and some progressives blame her for Bernie Sanders' loss in the 2016 presidential primary.
  • Deese is a former senior adviser to President Obama who worked on the auto industry bailout and Paris climate agreement.

Also in consideration for top jobs are:

  • Results for America's Ben Harris, who's been a chief economic adviser to Biden.
  • Bruce Reed, who ran the Domestic Policy Council under President Bill Clinton and served as one of Biden's vice presidential chiefs of staff.
  • Roger Ferguson, a former Fed vice chair, who announced his retirement as CEO of the Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association.

Between the lines: Nominating Rouse for a Senate-confirmed post could give Biden more political space to pick some of his longtime associates and avoid confirmation fights, after progressives already signaled they are opposed to candidates like Deese and Reed.

  • The CEA serves as an in-house think tank, providing hard economic data to the president. While Trump demoted the chair from Cabinet rank, Biden plans to restore it.
  • Rouse and Boushey joined former Fed Chair Ben Bernanke in signing a letter in June that argued for a fiscal response covering the expected $16 trillion output gap expected over the next 10 years.

The bottom line: Putting Rouse on a team with Janet Yellen would add academic heft and real-world experience to negotiations with Congress over the size of relief packages.

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