White House Budget Director Peter Orszag confirmed today that he plans to resign next month after two tumultuous years in which he helped President Obama weather one of the worst recessions in U.S. history and overhaul the nation’s health care system.
Orszag told The Fiscal Times in a brief interview that he had notified the White House that he would be leaving his job at the helm of the Office of Management and Budget in July. He cited passage of the $787 billion economic recovery act and enactment of a health care package extending insurance to millions of Americans as his major achievements.
Speculation on a successor to Orszag includes Rob Nabors, a former deputy to Orszag at OMB who is now in the White House chief of staff’s office; Laura D’Andrea Tyson of the University of California at Berkeley, who served as chief economic adviser to President Bill Clinton, and Gene Sperling, a former top adviser to Clinton and now a counselor to Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner.
For months, there had been widespread speculation that Orszag was considering leaving the administration, especially after the announcement that he was engaged to be married to Bianna Golodryga in September. She is now co-anchor of the “Good Morning America” weekend edition, as well as ABC News’s business correspondent. Orszag decided this week that two years at OMB was enough for him, when the average tenure of the budget director was a year and a half, and that he wanted to focus on his wedding, according to a source close to him.
Orszag, 41, has become the first Cabinet-level member of President Barack Obama's team to depart the administration. As OMB director, Orszag has a pivotal role in shaping and defending how the administration spends the public's money. He quickly emerged from a bureaucratic post to become a prominent spokesman for the administration, often on plans to confront the deficit and to spur the economy.
Robert Reischauer, a former director of the Congressional Budget Office and a friend of Orszag’s, said Orzag will leave behind a very positive legacy. “He was a key player both in the economic stimulus intitiative and health reform legislation, and it’s rare for an OMB director to play significant substantive roles in complex policy issues such as those,” said Reischauer, now head of the Urban Institute. “And of course he comes with a stellar academic background and policy mind on those two topics.”
Orszag came to Obama's government from the position of director of the Congressional Budget Office, the agency charged with providing nonpartisan analyses of economic issues to lawmakers. He served during Bill Clinton's administration as an assistant to the president for economic policy and as a senior adviser at the National Economic Council. The move comes as Obama continues to face the steep economic challenges of reining in the deficit and rallying support for more stimulus spending. The economic recovery is plodding along but unemployment remains near 10 percent.
"[Orszag] brought tremendous energy and knowledge to his work in this post," said Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad, D-N.D., who picked Orszag for the CBO job. "He has served the country with distinction, and his presence on the president’s economic team will clearly be missed."