Summers to leave White House post after midterm elections

President Obama’s top economic adviser, Larry Summers, will step down from his post after the November elections, the White House announced Tuesday.

Summers will be the third high-ranking economic official to leave the Obama administration following the departures of Peter Orszag, former head of the Office of Management and Budget, and Christina Romer, former head of the Council of Economic Advisers.

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“I will always be grateful that at a time of great peril for our country, a man of Larry’s brilliance, experience and judgment was willing to answer the call and lead our economic team,” Obama said on Tuesday.

Summers, who previously served as Treasury secretary during the Clinton administration, will return to teaching at Harvard University at the end of the year.

Summers was one of the main architects of the Obama administration’s roughly $800 billion effort to boost the economy with new spending projects and tax cuts. He also helped oversee the bailout of the auto industry and new financial regulations enacted by Obama in July.

“I will miss working with the president and his team on the daily challenges of economic policymaking,” Summers said in a statement.

The White House said Summers will transition from director of the National Economic Council to become part of the President’s Economic Advisory Board, a group of business leaders, union officials, academics and others that provides advice on the broader economy.

The departure of Summers, Orszag and Romer represents a changing of the guard for Obama’s economic team, which has come under heavy criticism in recent months for the slow pace of the recovery. The economy continues to suffer under near double-digit unemployment, a weak housing market and slow growth.

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs on Tuesday said the president is “enormously pleased” with his economic team’s record in “very trying times.”

Polls have consistently shown that the economy is the top priority of voters heading into the midterm elections. In late August, 39 percent of people polled in an NBC/Wall Street Journal survey said they approved of Obama’s handling of the economy, while 56 percent said they disapproved.

An official panel of academics concluded Monday that the recession — the longest since World War II — ended in June 2009. The National Bureau of Economic Research said the 18-month recession, which began under President George W. Bush’s administration, ended when the economy began to grow.

The Federal Reserve and other economic bodies have said that the economy has begun to grow more slowly. The central bank said Tuesday that it would provide additional help if necessary to spur more expansion. The Obama administration, meanwhile, has proposed a series of additional tax proposals and $50 billion in infrastructure spending to boost the economy.

It appears that Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner will be the longest-serving member of the president’s core of economic advisers after the midterm elections. Geithner oversaw the government’s response to the financial crisis first as head of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and as Treasury secretary under the Obama administration.

Geithner has come under heavy criticism from Republicans and some liberals this year for his stewardship of the economy. House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) called for Geithner’s resignation in a speech earlier this month.

Boehner called for the firing of Summers as well.

This story was originally posted at 4:04 p.m. and updated at 8:22 p.m.