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Biden announces departure of Brian Deese from top economic job

Brian Deese, director of the National Economic Council, speaks during a news conference on Dec. 9, 2021. (Al Drago/Bloomberg)
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President Biden on Thursday publicly confirmed that Brian Deese, the director of the National Economic Council, is leaving the top economic position in the White House.

“Brian’s work was critical to the passage of the most significant economic agenda in generations,” Biden said in a statement in which he ticked off a string of legislation passed during the first two years of his tenure, including a sweeping package to help the nation weather the pandemic; a bipartisan infrastructure law; and a sprawling energy, tax and health care measure.

In the statement, Biden acknowledged that Deese has been commuting from New England, where his wife and children live, to Washington.

“I am grateful to his wife Kara and his children Adeline and Clark for letting us borrow Brian,” Biden said. “I know well what it must have been like to say goodbye to him for the regular long commute to Washington, and I know they’re excited to welcome him home.”

Deese’s departure has been expected for some time, with speculation already rampant about possible successors.

Federal Reserve Vice Chair Lael Brainard has emerged as a top contender to replace Deese. The choice of Brainard, 61, would be welcomed by liberals, given her support for strict regulation for Wall Street and her attention to the effects of climate change on the financial world.

In addition to Brainard, Biden is said to be considering Wally Adeyemo, the deputy treasury secretary; Gene Sperling, a senior adviser to Biden who ran the NEC under President Bill Clinton and President Barack Obama; Sylvia Mathews Burwell, the former secretary of health and human services and current president of American University; Bharat Ramamurti, the deputy NEC director; and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo.

The next NEC director will face a range of decisions critical to Biden’s economic legacy, the most pressing of which may involve a potentially catastrophic standoff with congressional Republicans over the nation’s debt limit that, if not resolved, could throw the U.S. economy into a recession. The NEC is expected to lead those negotiations with GOP lawmakers.

Biden’s economic team will also face crucial questions on how to implement the Inflation Reduction Act and the infrastructure law and will play a key role in handling economic policy on China as tensions rise with Beijing. The NEC is also working to set new national housing policies, push Biden’s antitrust agenda and coordinate policy to prevent American energy prices from spiking amid the war in Ukraine.

The official word on Deese’s departure came a day after Biden oversaw the transition from Ron Klain as White House chief of staff to Jeff Zients.

Tyler Pager, Jeff Stein and Rachel Siegel contributed to this report.