Policy: Economy

Two potential candidates to succeed Sylvia Matthews Burwell as budget chief

By |
White House,Barack Obama,OMB,PennAve,Joseph Lawler,Economy,Budgets and Deficits,Sylvia Mathews Burwell

President Obama's nomination of Sylvia Mathews Burwell to replace Kathleen Sebelius as Health and Human Services secretary leaves open Burwell's position as director of the Office of Management and Budget.

The OMB director is a Cabinet-level position, responsible both for managing the federal bureaucracy and shaping the president's budget. Burwell's predecessor was Jack Lew, now the secretary of the Treasury. He, in turn, was preceded by Peter Orszag, the economist who played a key role in developing the president's health care law. Former businessman Jeffrey Zients was acting director during both transition periods.

The White House hasn't said who Obama will nominate to run OMB. But two likely candidates, at least for now, are the current deputy directors. Burwell herself spent time as deputy OMB director in the Clinton administration.

Of the two deputy directors, Brian Deese may be the more likely candidate. Deese joined Team Obama from Hillary Clinton's 2008 campaign, making the switch after Clinton conceded, and has remained close to the president since.

In 2011, The New Republic listed Deese as one of the “most powerful, least famous” people in Washington.

He was a key member of Obama's efforts to reshape General Motors, first as a member of the transition team and later as special assistant to the president for economy policy in the early days of the administration. A 2009 New York Times article by David Sanger labeled him the “the 31-year-old in charge of dismantling G.M.,” and noted Deese's unusual amount of responsibility, given that he doesn't have a degree in business or economics.

Deese attended Yale Law School and before that worked at the Center for American Progress in its early days.

The other OMB deputy director is Beth Cobert, in charge of management.

Cobert has no political background, having previously worked as a political consultant for McKinsey for 29 years. She earned her MBA from Stanford in 1984, along with her husband, with whom she has two children.

Both Deese and Cobert are relatively new to their roles: Deese was confirmed in May, and Cobert in October.

View article comments Leave a comment