William Daley, former commerce secretary, eyed for senior White House post, sources say

The first family celebrates the holidays at the White House with a variety of guests.
Washington Post Staff Writers
Monday, January 3, 2011; 7:27 PM

White House officials are considering tapping William Daley, the former commerce secretary and brother of Chicago's mayor, for a senior administration position, most likely chief of staff, people familiar with the situation said Monday.

President Obama is expected to begin acting on staffing recommendations from his interim chief of staff, Pete Rouse, as soon as he returns Tuesday from his vacation in Hawaii. Rouse conducted a review of White House operations in the hope of revamping a system that saw frequent breakdowns between its political, policy and communications shops last year.

But the introduction of Daley's name into the mix suggested that Obama's former chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, is still exerting influence over the White House even while running for mayor of Chicago, people familiar with the process said. Daley also has ties to senior adviser David Axelrod, another longtime Chicago operative who is planning to return to the city in the next six weeks.

Daley, 62, is a political heavyweight who would command immediate respect from the Washington establishment. He led the Commerce Department during President Bill Clinton's second term and now is the Midwest chairman of JPMorgan & Co. He is the younger brother of Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, who is leaving office this spring.

Press-friendly and outgoing, William Daley could serve as a potentially powerful liaison to business interests and a vocal spokesman on economic matters - something White House officials have said they want as they focus on unemployment and the economy heading into the 2012 presidential race.

Still, by appointing Daley - a free-trade stalwart who helped secure passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1993 - Obama could risk further aggravating liberals already wary of the president.

Daley did not respond to requests for comment, and White House officials were similarly silent. "I'm not going to comment on personnel speculation," press secretary Robert Gibbs said.

Other officials said they still believed Rouse could remain in the position if Obama asked, although Rouse has said he is reluctant to do so.

With the president's State of the Union address in the works - it is almost certain to take place on the evening of Jan. 25, although negotiations between House Republicans and the White House are still underway, Democratic officials said - Obama has just three weeks to finalize his agenda and get his evolving senior staff in place.

Other personnel changes are imminent: David Plouffe, the former campaign manager, will report for duty at the White House as soon as next week, and Obama will name a successor to Larry Summers as National Economic Council head in the next few days, senior officials said.

Still, advisers said, no major West Wing shakeup is imminent. Indeed, tapping Daley would give the changes a seamless quality. With both stature in Washington and familiarity with many of Obama's senior aides - senior adviser Valerie Jarrett once served as Richard Daley's deputy chief of staff - William Daley could assume the position with little drama, a quality the administration cherishes.

In addition to his work as commerce secretary during the Clinton administration and his business expertise, Daley is a longtime Democratic donor who gave $50,000 for Obama's inauguration, according to Federal Election Commission records. And he has operational experience in politics: He chaired Al Gore's unsuccessful 2000 presidential campaign and was a co-chairman of the Obama transition team.

kornbluta@washpost.com tumultyk@washpost.com Staff writers Chris Cillizza and Dan Eggen contributed to this report.

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