The council's current chairman, Alan B. Krueger, must return to Princeton University this fall or face the prospect of losing tenure. In a statement Tuesday, Obama said over the past two years Krueger has been "one of my most trusted advisers on economic policy and a great friend."
"Alan was the driving force behind many of the economic policies that I have proposed that will grow our economy and create middle-class jobs," Obama said. "He’s devoted his entire career to making sure our economy works for everyone, not just those at the very top. And while we have more work to do, today our economy is improving – thanks, in no small part, to Alan’s efforts."
Krueger thanked the president in a statement "for the opportunity to serve twice in this Administration, and for the chance to do what I could to help the nation recover from the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, and put policies in place that create good jobs and help reignite a rising, thriving middle class."
The chairman of the economic advisers is a member of the Cabinet, and therefore subject to Senate confirmation. The council makes recommendations to the president on a variety of economic matters, but has played a supporting role to the National Economic Council, headed by Furman's former boss, Gene Sperling, during the Obama administration so far.
Furman, 42, is one of Obama's youngest, fastest-rising economic advisers. He received his Ph.D in economics and a master's degree in government from Harvard University and directed the Hamilton Project at the Brookings Institution before joining Obama’s staff.
His nomination marks a shift for Obama. It's the first time he has appointed a Washington political operative to head the council rather than an academic.
Harvard’s Greg Mankiw, who served as chief of the Council of Economics Advisers under George W. Bush, thinks the choice shows a preference for someone who can get things done inside Washington. “Jason is smart, knowledgeable, and sensible," he writes on his blog. "He does not come to the job with as long an academic track record as other recent picks, but he has far more policy-relevant experience and expertise.”
Furman was on Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner's team representing the White House in discussions on averting the “fiscal cliff” at the end of 2012, a showdown many analysts believe the White House managed successfully.
And he has been a vocal critic of the so-called sequestration budget cuts that took effect recently. The cuts “will have macroeconomic consequences, cost hundreds of thousands of jobs across the country and jobs throughout the private sector,” Furman said a White House briefing on Feb. 25, according to Bloomberg News.
He repeatedly pushed for more fiscal stimulus during Obama's first term and was a proponent of the “cash for clunkers” program.
He originally came to Washington when future-Nobelist Joe Stiglitz tapped him to help out in the Clinton administration as a staff economist at the Council of Economic Advisers and subsequently a Special Assistant to the President for Economic Policy at the National Economic Council.
He was also a Senior Adviser to the Chief Economist and Senior Vice President of the World Bank.
And he's got campaign experience. He was part of John Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign and took leave from Brookings to become the Economic Policy Director of Obama for America, helping develop and articulate policies for Obama during his 2008 campaign.
Furman would be Obama's fourth chief of economic advisers. Christina Romer, his first, returned to the University of California at Berkeley in 2010. His second chairman, Austan Goolsbee, returned to the Booth School of Business at the University of Chicago.