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Obama completes his new economic team with additional appointments

January 7, 2011 | 12:58 pm

Economic team
President Obama completed the rebuilding of his economic team Friday, formally naming Gene Sperling as the replacement for Larry Summers and announcing three other appointments.

"Now, part of our mission -- part of this team’s mission -- in the months ahead will be to maximize the steps we’ve taken to spur the economy," Obama said during an appearance at a window manufacturing plant in Landover, Md.

He was joined on the stage by the four newly named or promoted aides as he touted news that the unemployment rate dropped to 9.4%. Still, Obama said, more needed to be done to increase hiring and economic growth.

As expected, Obama appointed Sperling as director of the National Economic Council, a position Sperling held for about three years at the end of the Clinton administration. Since 2009, Sperling had been counselor to Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner.

Obama already had tapped Sperling's experience striking economic deals with congressional Republicans during the Clinton administration, deploying him during negotiations over last year's small-business lending bill and the extension of the Bush tax cuts.

"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. "Few people bring the level of intelligence and sheer work ethic that Gene brings to every assignment he’s ever taken."

With Summers' departure last week, only Geithner remains from the four top members of Obama's original economic team, which included Peter Orszag as budget director and Christina Romer as chairwoman of the Council of Economic Advisers. Orszag and Romer left last year.

Orszag was replaced by Jack Lew, who was budget director during the Clinton administration. Austan Goolsbee, already a member of the Council of Economic Advisers, was elevated to replace Romer.

Obama rounded out the team Friday by appointing some secondary members.

University of Maryland economist Katharine Abraham, who served as commissioner of the Bureau of Labor Statistics from 1993 to 2001, was nominated to replace Goolsbee on the three-member Council of Economic Advisers.

Heather Higginbottom was nominated to be deputy budget director. A former top Obama campaign aide, she has been deputy director of the White House Domestic Policy Council.

And Jason Furman, who was an economic advisor to Obama during the 2008 campaign, was elevated to principal deputy at the NEC. He has been deputy director there since 2009.

Abraham and Higginbottom require Senate confirmation.

-- Jim Puzzanghera

Photo: President Obama at Thompson Creek Manufacturing, joined by (from left) Heather Higginbottom, Gene Sperling, Katharine Abraham and Jason Furman. Credit: AFP/Getty Images.