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Obama chooses economic adviser Deese as deputy budget director

U.S. President Barack Obama gestures as he delivers remarks on infrastructure investment at PortMiami in Miami, Florida, March 29, 2013. REU
U.S. President Barack Obama gestures as he delivers remarks on infrastructure investment at PortMiami in Miami, Florida, March 29, 2013. REU

By Jeff Mason

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama announced on Monday he had chosen White House economic adviser Brian Deese to be deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget, confirming a Reuters report.

Deese, now deputy director of the White House's National Economic Council, would join Sylvia Mathews Burwell, a former Clinton administration official who later became president of the Walmart Foundation, whom Obama tapped to be director of OMB.

"From helping to navigate our rescue of a financial system on the brink of collapse to retooling a flatlining auto industry to crafting a policy to put our nation on a fiscally sustainable path, Brian Deese has proven an indispensable member of my economic team," Obama said in a statement.

"He has a deep and intuitive understanding of economic and budgetary policy, and I am confident he will serve America well in this new role," Obama said.

Reuters reported last month that Deese was a leading candidate to be nominated for the job.

Deese is a young, popular member of the president's economic team who was closely involved with the administration's bailout of the auto industry.

He currently coordinates policy at the White House on taxes, financial regulation, clean energy and manufacturing.

If confirmed by the Senate, Deese and Burwell would be key players in executing the president's budget goals of reducing the deficit while investing in areas that would spur U.S. competitiveness such as early childhood education and clean energy technology.

Prior to his time in the White House, Deese served as economic policy director to then-Senator Hillary Clinton's 2008 presidential campaign.

He became one of the rare Clinton staffers who landed in Obama's orbit after her loss in the Democratic nominating contest that year, serving as deputy economic policy director in Obama's campaign.

"Brian Deese is one of the brightest economic minds in government today," former Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said in a statement to Reuters.

U.S. Senator Patty Murray, chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, called Deese's selection a "strong choice" and in a statement noted that he had played a key role in the Obama administration's economic policy in the past six years.

Deese will help navigate the contentious debate between Republicans and Democrats over fiscal issues.

Obama succeeded in raising tax rates for households making more than $450,000 annually after tough "fiscal cliff" talks between both parties at the end of last year. But the two sides were not able to agree on a way to prevent massive across-the-board spending cuts, known as "sequestration," from going into effect months later.

Republicans are eager to lock in further spending cuts. Obama and his fellow Democrats agree the deficit must be reduced but want to achieve that goal with a mix of spending cuts and tax increases.

Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget and a self-described political independent, said Deese - even with his close connection to Obama and Clinton - was more oriented toward policy than politics, an attribute that would help him in Washington.

"He's not a political thinker, which I think will certainly serve him well and will serve the position well," she said.

(Editing by Paul Simao)

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