Confirmation Process Discourages Business Leaders, Obama Says
President Obama says he favors choosing a business leader for his economic team in a second term if talented executives can be convinced the Senate confirmation process isn’t too disheartening.
“Not only is it something I’m considering, I’d love to do it,” the president said on Bloomberg Television in his first interview since winning re-election. “It’s something I would have loved to have done in the first term.”
“One of the biggest problems we’ve got in terms of recruiting business leaders into the administration is the confirmation process has become so miserable, so drawn out, that for successful folks to want to put themselves through that process, you know, a lot of folks are just shying away,” he said.
Obama’s advisers have considered Chief Executive Officer Mohamed El-Erian of Pacific Investment Management Co., which manages the world’s biggest bond fund, for a role in the administration, said a person familiar with the matter. El-Erian declined to comment.
Three positions might be a good fit for a business leader: secretary of the Treasury or Commerce Department or director of the National Economic Council, said two people familiar with the matter. It might also be possible to create a high-level position or install an executive as one of Obama’s three senior advisers, said the people, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
While the Treasury and Commerce positions require Senate confirmation, Obama can appoint the head of the National Economic Council without the Senate’s approval.
The current head of the council is Gene Sperling, who served in the same role during the Clinton administration. When Lawrence Summers left that position at the end of 2010, Obama considered at least one Wall Street executive, Roger Altman, the founder of Evercore Partners, for the job, along with Yale President Richard Levin.
He eventually settled on Sperling, who had been working at the Treasury Department as a counselor to Secretary Timothy Geithner.
For Treasury secretary, Obama may favor White House Chief of Staff Jack Lew, said the people familiar with the matter. Obama doesn’t appear to have made a decision and may wait until the so-called fiscal cliff budget dispute is resolved, they said.
Billionaire investor Warren Buffett has suggested JPMorgan Chase & Co. Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon to head the Treasury Department.
“If we did run into problems in markets, I think he would actually be the best person you could have in the job,” Buffett said in response to a question from television interviewer Charlie Rose on Nov. 27. “World leaders would have confidence in him.”
The Commerce Department is headed by an acting secretary, Rebecca Blank, an economist who took over for John Bryson after he resigned in June for health reasons following a seizure.