President Barack Obama is bringing John Podesta, a longtime outside adviser and former chief of staff to President Bill Clinton, to the White House as a special counselor, according to a people familiar with the plans.
Podesta, 64, is joining Obama’s administration as the president’s approval ratings are at a low point and as he is trying to recover from the fumbled roll-out of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
Podesta led Obama’s transition team after his election in 2008 and is a past chairman of the Center for American Progress, a policy research organization closely aligned with the White House. He will advise Obama on the health-law implementation, White House organization and on climate change, according to the people, who asked for anonymity because the appointment hasn’t been announced.
The New York Times reported the move earlier.
Obama last week chose Phil Schiliro, his former congressional liaison and a long-time Democratic aide in the U.S. House, to oversee implementation of the health-care law. Schiliro was Obama’s chief envoy to Capitol Hill when the law was passed in 2010.
Both positions are temporary and don’t require Senate confirmation. Podesta has agreed to serve for a year, one of the people said.
Podesta, a native of Chicago, served in the first Clinton administration as a senior policy adviser on such issues as government information, privacy, telecommunications and security and regulatory policy. He also was on the National Security Council and served as chief of staff.
After Clinton left office, Podesta founded the Center for American Progress in 2003.
At times, Podesta has been critical of the White House. In budget strategy, for example, Podesta said March 5 the Obama administration failed to pressure House Republicans to ease up on across-the-board budget cuts, even if cuts invoked pain on the military.
“I think they miscalculated, particularly on the military side,” he said on Bloomberg Television’s “Surveillance” program.
Podesta also disagreed with Obama’s search for a “grand bargain” of budget cuts and tax increases, even as the president lobbied Republican lawmakers at private dinners from March through May.
“For the last three years, people have been arguing for a grand bargain, go big, etc.,” Podesta said in the Bloomberg Television interview. “I think maybe it’s time to go small, to try to find a way to unravel this crazy sequester” of automatic budget cuts.
Podesta has supported a value-added tax, which taxes consumption, as a way to add revenue to the federal budget. He said that while such a tax may be regressive, some products could be exempt and some of the proceeds used “to support low-wage workers,” he said in September 2009 on Bloomberg Television’s “Political Capital with Al Hunt.”
Podesta planned to open a research center to investigate the causes and effects of growing economic inequality, the New York Times reported Nov. 6. Obama, in a speech he delivered Dec. 4, said the income disparity between the wealthy and the poor in the U.S. is the “defining challenge or our time.”
Podesta, who is a visiting professor at Georgetown University, has written books or contributed articles on the progressive movement and how it can save the U.S. economy and on the foreign policy and national security implications of climate change.