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Political Note #350   Joe Biden’s White House Team for Economic and Domestic Policy

2020                             Governing

Joe Biden’s White House Team for Economic and Domestic Policy

 Director, National Economic Council (NEC)

Brian Deese

The National Economic Council is the Forum in which economic policy is considered.  It was created by Bill Clinton. Its first Director was future Secretary of the Treasury Robert Rubin.  Most recently, Deese was the head of BlackRock’s sustainable investment team. Asked about investments in fossil fuel companies, his response was that BlackRock looked for the companies most capable of making the transition to other fuels.  Born and raised in a Boston suburb, he went to Middlebury and Yale Law School.  After law school, he worked at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.  He was later a senior policy analyst for the Center for American Progress.  Although he is not an economist, he served on the NEC and, despite his having urged reductions in government spending, he argued for the automobile company bailout.  He was briefly the acting director of the Office of Management and Budget and, as a senior advisor to President Obama, oversaw the process that led to the nomination of Merrick Garland for the Supreme Court.

Deputy Chair, National Economic Council

Bharat Ramamurti

The left wing of the Democratic Party will be glad to see Bharat Ramamurti in an influential position. For six years, he was senior counsel for banking and economic policy for Senator Elizabeth Warren and then worked on her campaign.  His BA is from Harvard, his JD from Yale.  His first job out of law school was back in Massachusetts – for the Boston Red Sox. His most recent job, after Elizabeth Warren’s withdrawal from the Presidential campaign, has been as Managing Director of the Corporate Power Program at the Roosevelt Institute.  In that role, in his blog, he wrote in May of this year a piece titled  “The Government’s Misplaced Trust in Big Business.”   He lives in Boston still, with his wife and child. His wife is an attorney.

Chair, Domestic Policy Council

Susan Rice

Immigrants from Jamaica, her grandmother was a maid; her grandfather a janitor.  Their daughter, Susan Rice’s mother, Lois Ann Dickson Fitt Rice became an education scholar and a member of corporate boards.  Her other grandfather was a pastor and his son, Susan’s Rice’s father, Emmet Rice, attended segregated schools in South Carolina.  He became an academic and the second African American to be a governor of the Fed.

Susan Rice was a star, a star point guard at the National Cathedral School.   She was a star at Stanford where she was Phi Beta Kappa and won a Truman and a Rhodes.  She was a star at New College, Oxford where she earned a PhD as well as a Master’s and won that year’s United Kingdom award for the most distinguished dissertation on international relations.

Susan Rice distinguished herself in every role she had and kept getting promoted.  She was on Bill Clinton’s National Security Council staff, an assistant secretary of state for African Affairs, US Ambassador to the United Nations, and National Security Advisor.  While she was UN Ambassador, she had a problem.  Neither Hillary Clinton, the Secretary of State nor Tom Donilon, the National Security Advisory was available official to speak about the incident at Benghazi where the ambassador to Libya and others were killed.  Susan Rice, UN Ambassador did the television talk shows relying on talking points developed by the CIA and the White House. She suggested the demonstrations were part of protests against an American movie rather than planned terrorism.  Republicans have claimed she lied.  She has not responded convincingly enough to that accusation to stop Republicans from making the accusations.  Valued as she is, she is named to a post that does not require Senate approval and is unrelated to foreign policy.

Director, Office of Management and Budget

Neera Tanden

No privilege here.  Daughter of Indian immigrants who divorced when she was five.  Food stamps, maybe some housing support made all the difference for two years until her mother got a job. The Bedford school district made a difference.  Not as wealthy as some of the neighboring communities, it nevertheless, contained very good schools.=

Bedford was welcoming.  Tanden’s mother served on the Town Democratic Committee and was a Dukakis supporter.  Tanden went to UCLA where she got involved in the Dukakis presidential campaign and where she met her artist husband. From UCLA, she came back to New England to go to Yale Law School.  Since the Dukakis campaign, she has been involved in nearly every Democratic presidential campaign. =

Tanden was a Hillary Clinton supporter.  She served as Deputy Campaign manager for the Senate campaign in New York and policy director for the 2008 Presidential campaign.  Republicans came to know how tough Tanden was in her judgments, when Democratic campaign emails were leaked.  Republicans loved Tanden’s criticisms of Hillary’s use of her private email.  The leaks also included descriptions of Tanden as a “loyal but insistent straight talker.”

Republicans claim they are reluctant to confirm Tanden because she’s too progressive.  That’s not true. She is not a progressive.  For instance, the leaked emails show her criticizing proposals to pardon Edward Snowden for his leaks. Republicans just don’t like her criticizing Republicans. She tweeted her skepticism about whether Susan Collins was ever undecided about confirming Brett Kavanaugh.  She asked Democrats to focus on Mitch McConnell and other Republicans up for election in 2020.  She even tweeted a comment about “Moscow Mitch.”  The Republican critics of Neera Tanden seem like people who like to dish it out, but can’t take it.

Director, Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs

Bridget CE Dooling

Bridget CE Dooling is a professor at George Washington University’s Regulatory Studies Center.  She is a Contributor to the Brookings Institution, a Member of the Food and Drug Law Institute, and has served as a member and senior fellow of the Administrative Conference of the United States.  She had worked at the Office of Management and Budget for almost 11 years before moving to George Washington.

She writes about the Office of Information and Rebulatory Afairs which she will be in charge of:

“The policies that require the government to show its work have been in place for decades, and they are guarded by the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), a small office in the White House that is staffed almost entirely by career employees. OIRA reviews draft regulatory changes using a set of principles set out in an executive order signed by President Bill Clinton in 1993. In conducting its interagency review, OIRA draws upon the expertise of the entire federal government, including the attorneys of the Justice Department and others whose knowledge of government programs runs deep.

“Critics sometimes blame OIRA when an agency makes analytical choices that strain credibility. Some even question whether OIRA or the analysis requirements they oversee, like cost-benefit analysis, are serving their purpose as a bulwark. But researchers have long understood that politics sometimes swamps dispassionate analysis when it comes to regulations.

“The question is, how should we handle that reality? The process is not perfect, but it is definitely better than government by fiat. In our legal system, agencies are required to explain to the public what they propose, their authority to do it, and what the estimated effects will be. When agencies do it poorly, they can lose in court because the law requires agencies to justify their choices in writing.”

Director, Office of Presidential Personnel

Cathy Sullivan 

Magna Cum Laude from Boston College, JD from George Washington, she went to work on Walter Mondale’s campaign.  She has been in politics ever since – on her own and through her marriage.  Her husband is Tom Donilon, National Security Advisor under Barack Obama.  Joe Biden’s Sr. Advisor, Mike Donilon, is her brother-in-law.  She has had ties to the Bidens since working as staff director for the Senate Judiciary Committee of which Joe Biden was chair.  She served as Jill Biden’s Chief of Staff from 2009 to 2013 after which she became Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues. =

The office she is responsible for?  The Office of Presidential Personnel oversees the selection process for Presidential appointments and recruitment of candidates for departments and agencies throughout the Executive Branch. This Office presents candidates requiring Senate approval to the Senate for confirmation after they are nominated by the President. The Office hires thousands of lower level appointees and communicates with departments and agencies to ensure that the Administration’s personnel priorities are addressed

Concluding thoughts

Four women and two men.  Two of the women, assertive and visible, are vilified by Republicans.  One as a liar because she relied on talking points developed by others; the other vilified because she makes sharp comments about people who don’t meet high expectations.  Republicans seem to take for granted their ability to make harsh criticisms. They remember when they are the target of criticisms.  The other two women have important and powerful jobs, but jobs that some would inaccurately call women’s work.  Personnel.  Managing the rules, not making them.  No one criticizes them.  The Federalist Society even likes one of them.

The two men in the group include a moderate Democrat and an acolyte of Elizabeth Warren.

Joe Biden chose all six of them.  He’s willing to go with people the Republicans hate.  He’s willing to go with people the Republicans don’t hate.  Joe Biden likes all six of these appointees.


The next piece will consider people who will be represent the Biden administration to the public and to other agencies of government including Congress.

Outward Looking figures

Director, Office of Public Engagement. Cedric Richmond

Press Secretary Jen Psaki

Communication Director Kate Bedington

Deputy director, Pili Tobar 

Director, Office of Intergovernmental Affairs, Julie Chavez Rodriguez

Director, Office of Legislative Affairs Louisa Terrell

Deputy director, Shuwanza Goff

Deputy director, Reema Dodin