Biden’s Top Aides Plan Exit as Economy Takes Center Stage in 2024 Election
President Joe Biden’s top economic adviser, Brian Deese, is expected to leave the White House next year, part of a broader reshuffle that will offer Biden a chance to make over his coterie of aides on an issue central to an expected reelection bid.
(Bloomberg) — President Joe Biden’s top economic adviser, Brian Deese, is expected to leave the White House next year, part of a broader reshuffle that will offer Biden a chance to make over his coterie of aides on an issue central to an expected reelection bid.
Deese is expected to depart as director of the National Economic Council sometime next year, most likely in the spring or summer, according to people familiar with his plans. Another high-profile adviser, Cecilia Rouse, the first African-American to chair the Council of Economic Advisers, is also expected to leave early in 2023 to return to Princeton University.
A senior White House official said there is no timeline for Deese’s departure, and the president and his colleagues would like him to stay. Another White House official said Rouse will return to Princeton at the end of her two-year public service leave, likely in the spring.
Administration aides are discussing Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo moving to the West Wing to lead the NEC, said the people, who spoke on condition of anonymity to describe internal deliberations. Adeyemo was previously a deputy director of the NEC under Obama, where he coordinated policy on trade, investment, energy, international finance and environmental issues.
Gene Sperling, the White House coordinator for Biden’s pandemic relief measure and a senior adviser to the president, is also expected to raise his hand for Deese’s job, according to people familiar with the matter. Sperling previously led the NEC under Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton.
The prospective Deese-Rouse departures will come at a critical time for the White House, as the president and his team continue to try to curb inflation and stave off a recession many economists view as a near-certainty. Biden will also have to contend with congressional Republicans, who will control the House and have threatened fights over the US debt ceiling and entitlement spending.
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Deese and Sperling, through a White House spokesperson, declined to comment. Adeyemo, through a Treasury Department spokesperson, also declined to comment.
One White House official dismissed talk about personnel changes as rumors, noting there is no timeline for Deese’s departure.
Biden’s most prominent economic adviser, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, is expected to stay in her current role longer than Deese and Rouse, according to a person familiar with the matter, who predicted she would not depart until the reelection campaign intensifies.
Biden was buoyed by the stronger-than-expected Democratic showing in the midterms despite voter anxiety about inflation and the economy. But attention is already shifting to 2024, with former President Donald Trump jumping in the race on Tuesday, and Republicans targeting Biden’s stewardship of the economy.
Biden tapped Deese from BlackRock Inc., where he oversaw the financial giant’s sustainable investment strategies. Before that Deese was a senior adviser to Obama on climate and energy issues and also a deputy director of the NEC.
Rouse, who was confirmed by the Senate on March 2, 2021, is returning to Princeton, where she has been a professor of economics and public affairs and a former dean of the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs.
The other two members of the Council of Economic Advisers are Jared Bernstein and Heather Boushey, both of whom advised Biden on his 2020 presidential campaign.
The White House is looking at economists from academic institutions as well as internal candidates like Bernstein to replace Rouse, according to people briefed on the search.
Bernstein declined to comment on Rouse’s departure or on whether he wanted the top job during an event hosted by Axios on Wednesday.
2024 in View
It’s not unusual for senior White House staff to consider leaving their positions after elections, worn out by grueling schedules, travel or the resetting of the policy agenda. And Biden has suffered far less turnover among his top aides than his predecessor, Donald Trump. But White House officials are bracing for departures now that the midterms are over.
Biden’s economic team will face a new political reality in 2023.
With Democrats controlling both chambers, Biden in his first two years in office was able to pass sweeping economic measures such as the Inflation Reduction Act — Democrats’ climate, tax and health package — as well as infrastructure spending and the Chips and Science Act to boost domestic semiconductor manufacturing.
But with a divided Congress, the administration is expected to focus more on implementing those laws while advancing additional policies through executive actions or regulations. There is little expectation that Republicans in the House will work with Biden on any significant new legislation, and the two sides are likely to have trouble agreeing even to basic government spending bills.
The White House must also contend with the prospect of a showdown over raising the debt ceiling, which Republicans have warned they aim to use as leverage to force spending cuts on entitlement programs. Biden has said he “will not yield” to GOP demands on the debt limit, which could force the nation’s first-ever default — an event many economists believe would have severe consequences.
—With assistance from Jennifer Jacobs.
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