A week away from delivering a major speech on jobs and renewing a battle with congressional Republicans on the economy, President Obama on Monday named labor economist Alan B. Krueger of Princeton University to lead his depleted economic team.
“He’s one of the nation’s leading economists,” Mr. Obama said in announcing Mr. Krueger’s nomination in the White House Rose Garden. “We need folks in Washington to make decisions based on what’s best for the country, not what’s best for any political party or special interest.”
Mr. Krueger’s nomination must be confirmed by the Senate. He was chosen to replace Austan Goolsbee, who left this month as chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers.
The Obama administration is searching for a formula to create jobs and boost the economy ahead of the 2012 elections. The president is working on a major speech about a jobs plan to be delivered just after Labor Day.
Referring to renewing his ideological clash with the GOP when Congress returns to Washington next week, Mr. Obama again tried to portray Republican lawmakers as unreasonable for opposing his plans for job creation, which include more spending. He argued that Mr. Krueger will help him shape a plan that is not beholden to politics.
“I rely on the Council of Economic Advisers to provide unvarnished analysis and recommendations, not based on politics, not based on narrow interests, but based on the best evidence, based on what’s going to do the most good for the most people in this country,” Mr. Obama said. “That’s how we’ll get through this period of economic uncertainty.”
The president said he will lay out proposals for Congress next week to create jobs, but many of the options he mentioned have been on the table for months. They include a loan program to boost construction projects and an extension of a payroll tax cut.
In a memo to GOP colleagues Monday, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Virginia Republican, said they will focus instead on cutting government red tape when they return to work Sept. 7.
“What we’re looking to do as we return to Washington next week is focus on how we stop the federal government from making it so difficult for small-business people to create jobs, because, after all, it is the middle class that is suffering,” Mr. Cantor said. “I am hoping that we can all come together and that this president will join us and finally implement a meaningful regulatory reform program, not pay lip service to us when we say that we are serious in trying to address these difficulties.”
The president has said he is doing all he can to ease the burden of government regulations, though many industry leaders disagree. Last week, the White House said it would tweak some 500 regulations that have hindered businesses, such as Environmental Protection Agency rules on hazardous-waste generators and consolidating Internal Revenue Service tax forms.
But Mr. Cantor said the House GOP will hold votes targeting 10 major regulations for elimination and will push to enact a major tax cut for businesses.
“I think the administration has … already demonstrated that it is not interested in focusing on private-sector growth,” Mr. Cantor said on “Fox News Monday.” “The record has been, thus far in this administration, a continued expansion of government, continued grabs at trying to tell people who want to go out and invest and create a profit that maybe they’ve done so, done enough already, and that we need to take that money and put it elsewhere.”
White House press secretary Jay Carney said the president hopes lawmakers will come back from their August recess “with a heightened sense of urgency.”
For the past month, however, Mr. Obama has been suggesting that he doesn’t expect to reach a consensus with congressional Republicans on job creation. On a three-day bus trip through Midwestern swing states, the president presented a scenario in which he would try to portray the House GOP as a “do-nothing” Congress for the next 12 months if Republicans don’t agree to his proposals.
With Mr. Krueger, 50, at his side in the Rose Garden, Mr. Obama alluded to that theme again, calling his ideas “proposals that everybody can get behind, no matter what your political affiliation might be.”
“My hope and expectation is that we can put country before party and get something done for the American people,” the president said.
Mr. Obama will be fashioning his jobs plan with an economic team that has been in flux.
Mr. Goolsbee and advisers Lawrence H. Summers and Christina Romer have left, while the $825 billion economic recovery plan they guided has made little progress in reducing the unemployment rate, which is above 9 percent nationwide. Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner is one of the few remaining leaders of Mr. Obama’s original economic team.
The weak economy has hit Mr. Obama’s ratings hard. A poll released last week showed that only 36 percent of those surveyed approved of the president’s handling of the economy.
Mr. Krueger is a professor of economics and public affairs at Princeton. The president nominated him in March 2009 to be assistant Treasury secretary for economic policy. He resigned from the post in October to return to Princeton.