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Budget Director To Take Over Chief Of Staff Duties


This morning we're following some shuffling that's underway in the West Wing. The president's chief of staff, Bill Daley, who's only been on the job about a year is out. Daley told President Obama last week that he intended to resign. The president made the announcement yesterday, and introduced his replacement, Jacob Jack Lew, currently the director of the Office of Management and Budget.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I have every confidence that Jack will make sure that we don't miss a beat and continue to do everything we can to strengthen our economy and the middle class and keep the American people safe.

GREENE: Now NPR's Tamara Keith has more on Jack Lew and what he brings to the job.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: The Office of Management and Budget, where Jack Lew has been director for a little more than a year, is a powerful arm of the executive branch that many outside of the Beltway have never heard of. OMB, as the office is known, writes the president's budget and much more. Alice Rivlin, now at the Brookings Institution was OMB director under President Clinton. And Lew was her deputy.

ALICE RIVLIN: OMB director has a broad purview over the whole government because everything is either in the budget or regulations or something. And so it's a very natural transition.

KEITH: This is Lew's second stint as OMB director. He came to the administration after about two and a half years at Citigroup, though he's spent most of his professional life working in government. During his first term under President Clinton, Lew oversaw three years in a row of budget surpluses. The situation now is very different. Over the summer he was deeply involved in negotiations to raise the debt ceiling. And in September, he appeared at a press briefing to discuss the president's deficit reduction plan.

JACOB JACK LEW: I think if you look at the details that are in here, there's very real structural change and there's very meaningful savings in many areas.

KEITH: As President Obama described it, Lew will be going from one of the most difficult jobs in Washington to one of the most difficult jobs in Washington. Matt Bennett worked in the Clinton White House when Lew was OMB director for the first time. Now Bennett is a senior vice president at Third Way, a think tank.

MATT BENNETT: The job of OMB director is to get spears thrown at you all day long by people who want more money, less regulation. He did a very good job of gently deflecting the criticism and making people feel like they've been heard, so I think that's a pretty good training ground for being chief of staff.

KEITH: He says Lew is about as battle tested as you can be. Bennett says this appointment is all about continuity. Lew has already been a senior member of the Obama team, involved in a wide array of administration decisions related to the economy and foreign policy.

BENNETT: I doubt that with the exception of people that attend senior staff meetings and are really in the direct orbit of the president that it will be easy to see a big difference.

KEITH: And at this point in the administration, at the start of an election year, an easy transition without a lot of waves may be exactly what President Obama needs.

Tamara Keith, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Tamara Keith has been a White House correspondent for NPR since 2014 and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast, the top political news podcast in America. Keith has chronicled the Trump administration from day one, putting this unorthodox presidency in context for NPR listeners, from early morning tweets to executive orders and investigations. She covered the final two years of the Obama presidency, and during the 2016 presidential campaign she was assigned to cover Hillary Clinton. In 2018, Keith was elected to serve on the board of the White House Correspondents' Association.