President Barack Obama's top economic adviser, Lawrence Summers, plans to leave the White House at the end of the year, a move that comes as the administration struggles to show an anxious public it's making progress on the economy.
In a statement, the president said he is grateful for Summers' service during a time of "great peril for our country."
"While we have much work ahead to repair the damage done by the recession, we are on a better path thanks in no small measure to Larry's wise counsel," Obama said.
Summers will return to Harvard University, a move a senior administration official said was always part of Summers' long-standing plans. The official said the president asked Summers last fall to stay through 2010 in order to see through the passage of financial regulatory legislation and the continued implementation of the economic stimulus package. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to discuss internal White House matters.
Summers is the third high-level member of Obama's economic team to leave in recent months, following the departure of budget director Peter Orszag and Christina Romer, head of the Council of Economic Advisers, both of whom left this summer. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner would be the only one of Obama's top-tier economic advisers to remain with the administration should be stay through the end of the year.
Summers' departure was first reported Tuesday by Bloomberg News.
With unemployment hovering near double-digits and the public growing increasingly worried about the slow pace of the recovery, Democrats fear the economy could lead to sweeping losses for the party in the midterm elections. Last month, House Republican leader John Boehner called for Obama to fire his entire economic team and set a new course for the recovery.
During a town hall Monday, Obama said he hadn't made any determination on personnel matters. But he didn't rule out the possibility of changes on the economic team.
"This is tough, the work that they do," Obama said. "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."
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