The president said during a White House ceremony, ”I selected Steve for his wide experience and steady and sound judgment.”
“Our economy is strong, and we’re going to make it even stronger.”
Friedman said he was proud to accept the appointment and praised the Bush administration’s economic policies, which he said made the recent recession “one of the shortest on record.”
As the president’s top economic adviser and director of the National Economic Council, the 64-year-old Friedman will help promote the White House’s new fiscal stimulus plan, which includes a new round of tax cuts, to Congress next year.
The new stimulus package, expected to cost up to $300 billion, includes tax breaks for companies and individuals. These tax cuts are part of the White House’s strategy to bolster economic growth.
Friedman is a limited partner at investment bank Goldman Sachs, where he served as co-chairman along with former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, in the 1990s. He is also a senior principal at Marsh & McLennan Capital Inc., one of the world’s largest insurance brokerage firms, and serves on several corporate boards, including Wal-Mart and Fannie Mae. He has contributed to both Republican and Democratic campaigns, and gave more than $50,000 to the Republicans during the 2000 campaign.
Friedman replaces outgoing National Economic Council chief Lawrence Lindsey, who was reportedly pressured to resign last Friday along with Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill.
Mr. Bush nominated John Snow, chairman of railroad giant CSX Corp., to replace O’Neill on Monday.
Friedman’s appointment was reportedly postponed due to strong protests from conservative Republicans. Conservatives raised concerns that Friedman — a former vice chair of the Concord Coalition, a group that opposes deficit spending — would work to balance the federal budget by perhaps limiting tax cuts, which, conservatives contend, are necessary to bolster economic growth, the Associated Press reported.
The White House reportedly assured conservative Republicans that Friedman was committed to the president’s tax cut plan.
Also this week, the president named William Donaldson, co-founder of a major investment firm and former head of the New York Stock Exchange, as the new chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, replacing the embattled SEC chief Harvey Pitt who resigned election day.
Unlike Snow and Donaldson’s nominations, Friedman’s appointment does not require Senate approval.