By Sam Youngman - 01/06/11 08:06 PM EST
President Obama on Thursday named William Daley to be his new chief of staff, elevating interim chief Pete Rouse to the role of councilor to the president.
In an East Room ceremony at the White House, Obama heaped praise on Rouse before introducing Daley, who assured the president that his “team will not let you down or the nation.”
Tapping former Clinton officials Daley and Gene Sperling, who Obama is likely to announce on Friday as his new director of the National Economic Council, sends a clear message that Obama is pursuing a centrist path in advance of the 2012 election.
Daley served as Commerce Department secretary during the Clinton administration and has worked as an executive at JPMorgan Chase for the last several years. He is the brother of outgoing Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, who may be succeeded by former White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel.
As a former Clinton administration staffer with close ties to the business community, Daley’s hiring also signals a move by Obama to bridge the perceived divide between his administration and business.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which has openly feuded with the White House over the last two years, praised the pick as a “strong appointment.”
“Bill Daley is a man of stature and extraordinary experience in government, business, trade negotiations and global affairs,” Chamber head Tom Donohue said in a statement. “He’s an accomplished manager and strong leader. We look forward to working with him to accelerate our recovery, grow the economy, create jobs and tackle America’s global challenges.”
Obama is scheduled to address the Chamber early next month.
Republicans immediately seized on Daley's Wall Street tenure in a statement called “The Subprime White House.” The Republican National Committee said in a statement that, by picking Daley, Obama “continues to recruit from pool of failed Fannie Mae executives.”
Liberals also pounced, criticizing Daley’s ties to business.
“Bill Daley consistently urges the Democratic Party to pursue a corporate agenda that alienates both Independent and Democratic voters,” said Adam Green, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee. “If President Obama listens to that kind of political advice from Bill Daley, Democrats will suffer a disastrous 2012.”
Daley is not considered to be close to Obama, and his appointment brings a new voice to the administration. In keeping Rouse, Obama also retains an old hand who is popular within the White House. Staff gave Rouse a long, standing ovation when Obama announced he would remain with the White House for two years. Rose appeared moved by the applause, and Obama responded: “As you might have noticed, people like Pete Rouse.”
Rumors that Daley was a contender for the post circulated in the fall, though in a brief interview with The Hill in September, Daley offered an emphatic “no” when asked whether he was interested in replacing Emanuel.
Daley’s appointment comes amid a major retooling of staff that included Wednesday’s announcement that White House press secretary Robert Gibbs was stepping down.
On Friday, Obama is expected to announce Sperling, another Clinton administration official, will replace Lawrence Summers as his chief economic adviser.
That appointment may also cause strife on the left.
During former President George W. Bush’s administration, Sperling worked in the private sector, and most recently earned nearly $900,000 working part-time on a philanthropic project for Goldman Sachs, and roughly another $150,000 delivering speeches primarily to financial firms.
Sperling currently is an adviser to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner.
Although he was originally a backer of Hillary Clinton during the 2008 primaries, Sperling joined the Obama administration in its earliest stages, advising Geithner since January 2009.
Sperling previously served as a national economic adviser for President Clinton. There he coordinated Clinton’s economic policy, which included the passage of the 1993 Deficit Reduction Act.
The White House has made clear that Obama viewed the first two years of his administration as the time to get laws passed and sees the two remaining in his first term as the time to implement those laws.
Some argued Thursday that Daley is the right pick to implement phase two of the president's plan.
Martha Joynt Kumar, a political science professor at Towson University and an expert on the presidency, said Daley was considered a success during his tenure at Commerce.
“He was viewed as having done well in his position when he was here,” she said. “He was a pro.”
Larry Berman, a political science professor at the University of California-Davis, said that with Daley, Obama will get a “chief of staff who knows Washington” and “is tied to former President Clinton as well as mainstream elements of the Democratic Party.”
“Daley is a seasoned professional who knows both policy and process who can do what the president needs from a chief of staff,” Berman said. “He also won’t need a tourist map to find Capitol Hill.”
Berman acknowledged the pick would surely anger liberals, but he noted that Obama appears to be working harder to repair his relationship with business than he is with the left-wing of his own party.
“The headlines about ‘banker’ are sure to incite knee-jerk reactions from the ‘professional left,’ but the president obviously is not too worried about that bridge as he seeks to repair other bridges,” Berman said.
The appointments also bring veteran officials to the White House with a track record of deficit reduction, an issue the president has said is high on his list of priorities. Obama also appointed Jack Lew as Office of Management and Budget director; Lew held the same post for Clinton.
Other candidates reportedly considered to replace Summers included investment banker Roger Altman, who runs his own firm, and Richard Levin, economist and president of Yale University, who also sits on the board of American Express.
—Peter Schroeder contributed to this report.
—This story was posted at 11:52 a.m. and last updated at 3:06 p.m.