The Washington Post

Sperling to continue as top WH economic adviser through February

National Economic Council adviser Gene Sperling will extend his White House tenure once more, he told reporters Monday, serving through most of February before handing the job over to his successor Jeffrey Zients.

Zients was originally supposed to take over for Sperling by the end of 2013; Sperling has occupied the post since January 2011, and is joining his family in California. But that was before the former acting director of the Office of Management and Budget agreed to oversee the overhaul of in the wake of the online health insurance system's botched rollout. Zients made significant improvements to the Web site in about six weeks, and while it continues to experience some problems, he handed over those duties to former Microsoft executive Kurt DelBene in mid-December.

Still, Zients said he needed some time to get up to speed before replacing Sperling. Initially, the handover was supposed to take place at the beginning of February.

But Sperling, who dominated White House press secretary Jay Carney's daily briefing for nearly 25 minutes Monday as he discussed the expiration of long-term unemployment benefits with reporters, made it clear that they didn't need to say goodbye just yet when one of them asked if it was the last time he would make an appearance in the briefing room.

"I will probably be here for -- I will be here for all of January and probably the good -- quite a lot of February as well," he said, prompting laughter from the group. "Jeff and I were talking yesterday, and I am quite confident that when March comes, I will be somewhere else."

Yes, there's a reason why Sperling -- who has served a total of 13 years in the West Wing, both as an economic adviser to Obama and former President Bill Clinton -- is known as "Gene the Machine." He just can't stop working.

Juliet Eilperin is The Washington Post's White House bureau chief, covering domestic and foreign policy as well as the culture of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. She is the author of two books—one on sharks, and another on Congress, not to be confused with each other—and has worked for the Post since 1998.



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