President Obama to Name Sperling as Head of National Economic Council

BY David Chalian  January 7, 2011 at 8:18 AM EST

Gene Sperling

President Obama is set to tap Gene Sperling, left, as his top economic adviser. File photo by Jay Mallin/Bloomberg via Getty Images.

The Morning Line

With a new day comes yet another staff announcement by the White House.

President Obama is set to name Gene Sperling as director of the National Economic Council Friday at an 11:35 a.m. event in Landover, Md.

Sperling currently serves as counselor to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and headed the council during the Clinton administration. He replaces Lawrence Summers, who left the White House to return to Harvard University.

President Obama will also almost certainly highlight Friday’s jobs report, which showed the nation’s unemployment rate fell to 9.4 percent in December, the lowest since May 2009. More than 100,000 jobs were added, although that number was short of expectations.

Lori Montgomery of the Washington Post takes a look at why the president chose Sperling for the job:

“Sperling is not an economist by training. But he is valued as a savvy and knowledgable political player. His experience negotiating successfully with Republicans may prove useful as the administration shifts away from a highly creative period of developing policies to counteract the recent recession and hunkers down for a protracted fight over government spending, taxes and the fate of Obama’s new health-care law.”

President Obama is also expected to detail other changes to his economic team, including the appointment of University of Maryland professor Katharine Abraham to the Council of Economic Advisers and Jason Furman as an assistant on economic policy. Furman had served as Summers’ deputy on the National Economic Council.

In another move, the president is expected to nominate Heather Higginbottom, currently the deputy director of the Domestic Policy Council, for the position of deputy director at the Office of Management and Budget.

Abraham and Higginbottom would have to be confirmed by the Senate.

The changes come the same week as two other major shakeups at the White House: Wednesday’s announcement that Press Secretary Robert Gibbs was leaving to become an outside adviser for the 2012 re-election and Thursday’s naming of former Clinton Commerce Secretary Bill Daley to be chief of staff.

REP. CAMP DOUBLES DOWN ON $100 BILLION IN CUTS

You may have noticed that House Republicans have been taking some heat in the last few days about dialing back their pledge to cut $100 billion in government spending in the first year back in the majority. And nobody has appeared willing to put a new hard number on the amount of cuts they expect to reach this first year.

However, on Thursday’s PBS NewsHour, Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich., the new chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, doubled down on the $100 billion mark for spending cuts in his conversation with Judy Woodruff.

“We will have $100 billion in cuts, when you compare the president’s budget with where we end up, absolutely,” Rep. Camp said.

It all stems from this paragraph on page 21 of the “Pledge to America,” the document of principles on which House Republicans ran their campaigns in 2010. “With common-sense exceptions for seniors, veterans, and our troops, we will roll back government spending to pre-stimulus, pre-bailout levels, saving us at least $100 billion in the first year alone and putting us on a path to begin paying down the debt, balancing the budget, and ending the spending spree in Washington that threatens our children’s future,” reads the Pledge.

But, “Republican leaders are scaling back that number by as much as half, aides say, because the current fiscal year, which began Oct. 1, will be nearly half over before spending cuts could become law,” reported the New York Times’ Jackie Calmes on Tuesday.

Since then, every time a Republican member of the House gets in front of a microphone, he or she is asked about scaling back a key component of the “Pledge to America.”

The Democratic National Committee has wrapped such appearances into a new web video out Friday:

SWEARING-IN, TAKE TWO

A headline you don’t want to read in your hometown paper: “GOP congressman from Pa. AWOL from swearing-in”

But that is precisely what Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick is reading in the Philadelphia Inquirer Friday morning.

Rep. Fitzpatrick and House Republican campaign chief, Rep. Pete Sessions, left the House floor on Wednesday to attend an event with Fitzpatrick supporters and missed the official swearing-in. The two men proceeded to cast votes and partake in committee hearings, but they were not yet official members of Congress according to the rules of the House.

“According to sources, the situation came about when the Speaker’s office discovered a photo of Sessions holding his hand up while watching a television showing his fellow colleagues taking the oath on the floor,” The Hill’s Russell Berman reports.

They got a bit of a do-over Thursday when House Speaker John Boehner administered the oath of office to each of them in his office, but not without gleeful Democrats trying to make some political hay out of the faux pas, aided by the fact the episode came to light on the same day Republicans had the U.S. Constitution read aloud on the floor of the House.

More from the Philadelphia Inquirer: “Six votes cast by Fitzpatrick and Sessions had to be stricken, the same congressional official said. On Friday, the official said, the House may take further steps to ensure that the election of members to committees and other procedures were done properly.”

“The Associated Press reported that House Republican leaders planned to correct the foul-up with a resolution asking that the two men’s votes be nullified, but that the voting results stand.”

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