Biden confirms his top economic aide is leaving the White House
By Phil Mattingly, Betsy Klein and Maegan Vazquez, CNN
President Joe Biden announced Thursday that his National Economic Council Director Brian Deese plans to step down from his role, a long-awaited confirmation of an expected departure.
Biden’s statement did not provide any details on a successor or timing of Deese’s departure, but praised his top economist’s work during a difficult time for the US economy.
“Brian has a unique ability to translate complex policy challenges into concrete actions that improve the lives of American people. He has helped steer my economic vision into reality, and managed the transition of our historic economic recovery to steady and stable growth,” Biden said in the statement, touting Deese’s “critical” role in the passage of key legislation including the bipartisan infrastructure law, the Covid-19 relief bill, the CHIPs and Science Act and the health care and climate package.
Biden is expected to campaign on the implementation and successes of those key bills through an expected reelection announcement.
“I am grateful to his wife Kara and his children Adeline and Clark for letting us borrow Brian. I know well what it must have been like to say goodbye to him for the regular long commute to Washington, and I know they’re excited to welcome him home,” Biden said.
Speaking to MSNBC following Thursday’s announcement, Deese acknowledged the outsized economic challenges the nation encountered during his tenure as the president’s top economic adviser.
“It’s been an unprecedented period in almost every way dealing with a pandemic, an economic crisis and then all manner of uncertain events, like Russia’s invasion of Ukraine,” Deese said. “As I look back and look forward, the thing that I feel the most comforted by is the strength and the equitable nature of this economic recovery in ways that have defied lots of projections and lots of odds.”
After two years defined by stability, Biden is in the process of remaking the White House economic team at a moment the US economy has shown a level of durability in job gains and growth that has surprised analysts — and even some inside the West Wing.
Cecilia Rouse, the chairwoman of the Council of Economic Advisers, has long planned to return to Princeton University next month. Her likely replacement in the role will be Jared Bernstein, a current CEA member and longtime Biden economic adviser, according to two people familiar with the matter.
Biden also hasn’t selected NEC replacement, to a critical role made even more so by Deese, who spearheaded Biden’s economic team while also playing a central role in the legislative negotiations that cleared the way for trillions in new spending designed to transform entire sectors of the economy.
Lael Brainard, the Federal Reserve vice chair, remains the front-runner for to be tapped for the position, two people familiar with the matter said, though they cautioned Biden has not weighed in with his decision yet and likely would not until after the State of the Union address. Other candidates include current White House official Gene Sperling, Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo and Sylvia Matthews Burwell, a former cabinet official in the Obama administration.
Deese told MSNBC on Thursday that the president had not yet made a decision as to who will fill the role.
The announcement of Deese’s impending exit comes a day after the White House held an emotional event to mark the departure of Biden’s first chief of staff, Ron Klain.
The departures of two of Biden’s top advisers could be a sign of upcoming shifts across the White House and the administration, as staff and Cabinet officials mull a potential change midway through Biden’s first term.
The prospect of exits is not something that’s lost on the White House.
Ahead of the November midterm elections last fall, the White House announced a talent search project to prepare for potential vacancies across Cabinet and senior administration posts. Biden’s former Covid-19 coordinator Jeff Zients was brought on to lead the way on identifying potential replacements for roles. He will be succeeding Klain as Biden’s chief of staff.
This story has been updated with more reporting.
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