Despite campaigning against business as usual, President-elect Obama's addition of Peter Orszag to his economic team brings that groups' combined Washington experience to nearly a century -- or more than a decade more insider experience than President Bush's first economic team had.
That's welcome news to Blue Dog Democrats, the House lawmakers who are considered the fiscal conservatives of the Democratic Party. They said Tuesday they are happy with Obama's choice of Orszag to be his director of the Office of Management and Budget.
Orszag is well suited to the task of running the next administration's budget numbers, several Blue Dogs said, since he has been serving as the congressional counterpart to the OMB job.
"The president-elect could not have chosen a more uniquely qualified individual to lead his administration's efforts to implement critical budget reforms and put the federal government back on a path to fiscal responsibility," said Rep. Charlie Melancon, D-La., Blue Dog co-chairman for communications.
"President-elect Obama has demonstrated that he is serious about tackling the fiscal and economic challenges facing us today," added Rep. Baron Hill, D-Ind., who heads up the group's policy committee. "The Blue Dogs look forward to working together with Peter Orszag, and other members of his budget and economic teams, to develop a realistic strategy to pay down the national debt over the long term and to restore the economic health of the country for generations to come."
Orszag is well-known to lawmakers, having served as director of the Congressional Budget Office since January 2007. But he also may have been well known before taking over the top budget job on Capitol Hill. Orszag served as a special assistant to President Clinton for economic policy and was a staff economist and then senior adviser and senior economist at the President's Council of Economic Advisers. Orszag also once headed a department at the Brookings Institution, one of Washington's elite think tanks.
That gives him about 10 years of experience in Washington. Rob Nabors, who will be appointed as Orszag's deputy, has served since 2001 as the clerk for the House Appropriations Committee, and before that was in former President Clinton's OMB for five years.
Obama's other designations for his economic team include Tim Geithner as Treasury secretary, who has served 23 years in Washington in varying private and public sector capacities; Council of Economic Advisers head Larry Summers, who has collected 12 years in Washington at Treasury, the White House and World Bank; National Economic Council head Christina Romer, who has spent 22 years on the National Bureau of Economic Research; and Domestic Policy Council chief Melody Barnes, who has been in Washington for 18 years on Capitol Hill and at the liberal Center for American Progress.
Combined, the Obama team has 97 years of Washington experience.
That's more than a decade more experience than President Bush's original economic policy team, which in 2001 was made up of Paul O'Neill as Treasury secretary, who had spent 16 years in Washington at Veterans Affairs and OMB; National Economic Council chairman Larry Lindsey, who'd been in Washington for 18 years in various positions; and Council of Economic Advisers chief R. Glenn Hubbard, who for 10 years had served in varying capacities at the American Enterprise Institute, the National Bureau of Economic Research and at the Treasury Department.
Bush also hired John Bridgeland as his first Domestic Policy Council chief. Bridgeland spent five years as Rep. Rob Portman's chief of staff before joining the White House transition team and eventually ending up in the administration.
Add to that Mitch Daniels, who was in Washington for 19 years before becoming Bush's OMB director; and Sean O'Keefe, Daniels' deputy director at OMB, who had been in and out of Washington for 13 years prior to joining Bush's team ,and the total amount of Washington experience for Bush's economic bunch was 81 years.