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Obama names new White House economic adviser

January 7, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
President Barack Obama appointed Gene Sperling, a Washington insider with a bipartisan nature, as director of the National Economic Council on Friday. Sperling, who had been a counselor to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, has served as NEC director in the Clinton administration, where he played a key role in the 1993 deficit reduction bill and compromised with a Republican-led Congress on the 1997 balanced budget agreement.

"He's a public servant who has devoted his life to making this economy work - and making it work, specifically, for middle-class families," Obama said.

Sperling takes over for economist Lawrence Summers, who left the White House last month to return to Harvard University. Sperling has worked closely with the president and played a key role in budget negotiations and the administration's small business initiatives. Administration officials say Sperling made a strong impression on Obama last month when he helped secure a compromise with Republican lawmakers on a deal to extend Bush-era tax cuts for all income earners.

As NEC director, Sperling will have a hand in shaping the course of the nearly all of the administration's economic policies, including looming battles with Republican lawmakers on spending cuts and the raising the debt ceiling.

Sperling's pragmatism and his work as a corporate philanthropy consultant to Goldman Sachs, where he was paid more than $880,000, has prompted some liberals to voice misgivings about his appointment. He helped the investment bank design an initiative to provide business education to women in developing countries. He also worked with actress Angelina Jolie to develop education programs for children living in conflict-ridden countries.

Obama also nominated Katharine G. Abraham to his Council of Economic Advisers and Heather Higginbottom as deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget. Those two posts require Senate confirmation. Obama also will elevate economic adviser Jason Furman to assistant to the president for economic policy.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.