National Economic Council Advisor Gene Sperling, who is stepping down at the end of the year, is expected to return to Hillary Rodham Clinton's team should she seek the Democratic presidential nomination, a role he held when she last sought the seat in 2008,
The Obama administration confirmed Friday that Sperling, 54, will be replaced by Jeffrey Zients, who has served as acting budget director and who was a two-time candidate for cabinet posts. As economic advisor, Zients will not have to go through Senate confirmation hearings, which have held up his promotions to cabinet-level posts since he entered government service for the first time in 2009.
Neither Sperling nor Clinton's camp have confirmed that he plans to work with her campaign, which has not yet been announced, The New York Times reports
However, the veteran economist traces his main career ties back to the beginnings of President Bill Clinton's administration and remained loyal to the couple even after Clinton's presidency concluded in 2001.
The Yale Law School graduate first worked for then-New York Gov. Mario Cuomo in the early 1990s, before joining Bill Clinton's campaign. He stayed with the Clinton administration for the entire eight years, from 1993 to 2001, serving as deputy director of the National Economic Council from 1993 to 1996 and then as director from 1996 to 2000.
He held a number of jobs between 2001 and 2008, when he joined Hillary Rodham Clinton’s presidential campaign as its top economic official. After she conceded, he switched over to the Obama campaign, returning to his job as head of the National Economic Council — an office Clinton formed and Presidents George W. Bush and Obama kept active — in 2011.
Reports began surfacing
last month that Sperling was planning to leave the White House. He has said only that he is leaving the White House for personal reasons, and in recent months, he has been commuting to Los Angeles to be with his wife, Allison Abner, who lives there with their children while she helps to develop a new television show for Fox.
The couple met in 2001 when she was a writer for "The West Wing" and Sperling, after the Clinton administration ended, served as a technical advisor for the show.
Meanwhile, Zients joined the Obama administration in June 2009 as deputy director for management at the Office of Management and Budget. While he had no experience in government affairs, Zients had been a successful executive for corporate management and media companies, as well as at his own private equity firm, Portfolio Logic.
Zients performs as the government's "chief performance officer," identifying ways to cut federal costs through eliminating, reorganizing, or consolidating agencies.
However, The Times reports, Montana Democratic Sen. Max Baucus, who chairs the Senate Finance Committee, opposed Zients' call to remove government functions from his committee's jurisdiction, and since then, the former business executive has not had success advancing.
Even though Zients served as acting budget director, the White House said he did not have enough experience to hold the office, appointing Jacob Lew instead in 2010 when Peter Orszag left.
When Lew became Treasury secretary, Zients served again as acting budget director, remaining as acting director all of 2012 to avoid a confirmation fight as the election neared. And after his re-election Obama chose Sylvia Mathews Burwell, not Zients, as budget director.
Zients was also considered as commerce secretary, and then as U.S. trade representative, but both would have to go through Senate confirmation. However, as director of the National Economic Council, Zients does not need the chamber's approval.
Sperling is remaining through the fall to advise Obama in the ongoing budget fights with Republicans, and as a Michigan native he reportedly hopes to steer some federal assistance to help Detroit in its recovery from bankruptcy.
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