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Orszag says he's leaving as White House budget director next month

WASHINGTON (AP) — White House Budget Director Peter Orszag says he's stepping down next month, positioning him to be the first high-profile member of President Barack Obama's team to depart the administration.

Orszag confirmed his planned resignation in a brief interview with The Associated Press on Tuesday. He said he views passage of last year's economic recovery act as his most significant accomplishment.

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said Tuesday that "a number of very talented candidates" were being considered to replace Orszag.

"Peter has served alongside and within a valuable economic team that has faced the greatest economic crisis any president has faced since the great depression. It is an enormous task," Gibbs said.

As director of the Office of Management and Budget, Orszag holds Cabinet-level rank and 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 camera friendly face of Obama's government, often in front on plans to confront the deficit and to spur the economy.

Speculation has for weeks held that Orszag would leave this year after a grueling, nonstop sprint as the head of the budget agency and a key adviser to Obama. During his tenure, Congress has passed the most expensive economic stimulus program in U.S. history and a massive health care reform law. Orszag has overseen Obama's first two budgets, too. Gibbs said Orszag decided to leave before work began on a third.

The move comes as Obama continues to face the steep economic challenges of reining in the deficit and rallying support for more stimulative spending. The economic recovery is plodding along but unemployment remains near 10 percent.

Orszag, 41, 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 a senior adviser at the National Economic Council.

Orszag's private life has occasionally popped up in gossip columns. In late December his fiancee, ABC News reporter Bianna Golodryga, announced their engagement on "Good Morning America." Less than two weeks later, Orszag and his former girlfriend, Claire Milonas of New York, confirmed a New York Post report that they had had a baby daughter the previous November after their breakup.

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Associated Press writer Stephen Ohlemacher contributed to this report.

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