Obama taps Princeton professor to head White House economics team

President Obama is nominating Alan Krueger, an economics professor at Princeton University, to head his White House economics team.

The president announced Monday that he plans to tap the labor economist as chairman of the White House's Council of Economic Advisers (CEA).

In a statement, he touted Krueger's qualifications, calling him “a key voice on a vast array of economic issues for more than two decades.”

“Alan understands the difficult challenges our country faces, and I have confidence that he will help us meet those challenges as one of the leaders on my economic team,” he added.

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The president is expected to publicly announce Krueger's nomination at a Rose Garden event later in the morning.

Krueger previously served Obama within the Treasury Department as his assistant secretary for economic policy. He left that position one year ago to return to academic work at Princeton.

Krueger’s selection comes at a key time for the Obama administration. The economy is still struggling to recover from the financial crisis and recession that consumed the first half of his term, and there are fresh concerns that the nation is approaching a double-dip recession. Meanwhile, the 2012 presidential campaign is heating up, and the economy looks to be a dominant issue leading up to the election.


If confirmed, Krueger would replace Austan Goolsbee at the top of the CEA. Goolsbee left the White House earlier in August to resume teaching at the University of Chicago.

While at Treasury, Krueger served as a vocal advocate for a number of programs contained in the 2009 stimulus package. In particular, he called on Congress to extend beyond 2010 the Build America Bonds (BAB) program, which encouraged state and local governments to borrow for capital projects by subsidizing the interest costs of their bonds. Those efforts proved unsuccessful, as the BABs expired at the end of that year alongside many other aspects of the stimulus.

He also served as the Labor Department’s chief economist under former President Clinton.

Krueger’s work on the stimulus and at the Labor Department could set off a contentious confirmation process, though Krueger did win Senate confirmation for his post at Treasury. Republicans in Congress have criticized the administration on labor policy, and the stimulus remains unpopular with the public.

The president has struggled to push through several key economic appointees in recent months, as Republican objections have stymied their advancement.

Peter Diamond, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who was recently awarded a Nobel Prize for his work, ultimately withdrew from attempts to join the Federal Reserve Board. The president had nominated him multiple times for the position, only for Republicans to object, saying his experience in employment issues did not qualify him to join the Fed.

Obama also passed over Elizabeth Warren to head the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) for fear of her failing to win confirmation. Warren was tapped by the president to build the agency from scratch and served as its vocal face for over a year, but her contentious relationship with congressional Republicans helped convince the president to pass her over when nominating a director for the agency.


—This story was updated at 9:54 a.m.