White House officials expect Lawrence Summers to leave his job as the president’s National Economic Council director after November’s congressional elections, according to three people familiar with the matter.
His departure would leave Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner as the only member of President Barack Obama’s original top-tier economic team. Summers, 55, and the president have discussed his future plans, according to one person.
Administration officials are weighing whether to put a prominent corporate executive in the NEC director’s job to counter criticism that the administration is anti-business, one person familiar with White House discussions said. White House aides are also eager to name a woman to serve in a high-level position, two people said. They also are concerned about finding someone with Summers’ experience and stature, one person said.
The people familiar with White House discussions spoke on condition of anonymity because no decisions have been made.
White House officials declined to comment directly on Summers’ plans. Robert Gibbs, Obama’s chief spokesman, said today it “is not a surprise, that there will be people who have worked enormously hard over the past few years to make decisions to go back to doing” what they did before joining the administration.
The second half of a president’s term typically is a time of turnover in staff and advisers, many of whom also had roles in the presidential campaign. Obama yesterday indicated he realized that some members of his White House economic team may leave.
“This is tough, the work that they do,” he said in an hour-long town hall discussion on the economy broadcast on CNBC. “They’ve been at it for two years, and they’re going to have a whole range of decisions about family that will factor into this, as well.”
Since the end of July, Peter Orszag, director of the Office of Management and Budget, and Christina Romer, the head of the Council of Economic Advisers, left the administration.
Obama said yesterday he has “not made any determination about personnel.” He praised Summers and Geithner, as well as the rest of his economic advisers, saying that they “have done an outstanding job.”
Summers was President Bill Clinton’s Treasury secretary from 1999 to 2001, when he became president of Harvard University. He earned his doctorate at Harvard in 1982 and became the university’s youngest tenured professor at age 28. He spent time on the staff of the White House Council of Economic Advisers in the 1980s before joining the World Bank as chief economist.
Summers has been a forceful advocate of his positions within the administration and also urged restraint on issues such as the economic stimulus and adoption of the “Volcker Rule,” which limits banks from engaging in proprietary trading, people familiar with discussions said.
In internal discussions, Summers has argued that the administration needs to make more overtures to the business community and has opposed political advisers who want the president to strike a more populist tone, one person said.