Bush to Change Economic Team

Bush to Change Economic Team (WaPo A01)

President Bush plans to overhaul his economic team for the second time in two years and wants to tap some prominent replacements from outside the administration to help sell rewrites of Social Security and the tax laws to Congress and the country, White House aides and advisers said over the weekend. Aides said changing four of the five top economic officials — including the Treasury and Commerce secretaries, with only budget director Joshua B. Bolten likely to remain — is part of Bush’s preparation for sending Congress an ambitious second-term domestic agenda.

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Commerce Secretary Donald L. Evans and chief economic adviser Stephen Friedman have announced their resignations, and officials had signaled they would move gradually to replace the team. But the White House is now indicating it may move more quickly to convey a fresh start. Aides also said Bush is considering reaching beyond the kind of administration loyalists who will staff key national security posts in the second term.

Republican officials said Bush’s economic team has been weaker than his national security advisers, and that the president believes he needs aides who can relate better to Congress and the markets. A more skilled team is essential, the aides said, because of the complex and politically challenging agenda of overhauling Social Security to add private investment accounts and simplifying the tax code. “The president knows that he doesn’t have the strength in that stable, and he’s going to another corral to find it,” said a member of Bush’s political team who asked not to be identified because it is not his job to talk to reporters.

One senior administration official said Treasury Secretary John W. Snow can stay as long as he wants, provided it is not very long. He might stay as long as six months into the term, officials said. Friends say Chief of Staff Andrew H. Card Jr. is one possibility to replace him. Bolten also could move over. But Republican officials said Bush is also considering well-known officials from outside, including New York Gov. George E. Pataki (R). Conservatives are pushing for former senator Phil Gramm, a Republican from Texas. Also under consideration is John J. Mack, who stepped down in June as co-chief executive of Credit Suisse Group. Mack has also been considered to lead a bipartisan commission on changing the tax system that Bush will appoint to develop recommendations for the Treasury secretary.

Interesting. A more high profile, politically astute economic team would be welcome. I’m a huge Phil Gramm fan and think he’d be an ideal candidate for the Treasury Secretary billet. He’s rather prickly but he knows his way around Congress and has superb economic credentials.

FILED UNDER: Economics and Business
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.