Policy wonk, budget chief, and raconteur Peter Orszag will be stepping down from his position as director of the White House Office and Management and Budget. After four years at the epicenter of Washington's balance sheet struggles (he spent two years as director of the Congressional Budget Office), Orszag is apparently seeking to exit the hurly burly in time for his fall wedding, especially now that health-care reform has passed Congress.
His tenure has been a successful one, by and large, particularly on premier issues like the Recovery Act and health-care reform, where he was critical in swaying members of Congress best persuaded by the Affordable Care Act's cost-cutting virtues. He also should be remembered as the architect of President Obama's first budget, which amounted to a genuinely progressive statement of principles that managed to incorporate aggressive fiscal policy and several big-ticket agenda items, cut through much of the usual gimmickry designed to disguise priorities and costs, and be fiscally responsible over the long term. (His second budget, not so much.)
Now we gear up to replace Orszag, a fight that will be brutal, since it comes in the context of increasing concerns -- real, imagined, and artificial -- about government deficits and debt, making confirmation the perfect stage for political showboating. Federal Eye has a good list of who could succeed Orszag.
Considering that the Obama administration needs someone who can be easily confirmed, retiring Sen. Byron Dorgan might be a good progressive pick, but he has little executive experience. Bob Greenstein of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities would be ideal, but despite his well-deserved reputation as a fair-minded number-cruncher, Republicans will be skeptical of him as a pick. The one name I might add to the list is Doug Elmendorf, who replaced Orszag as CBO director and could make the same move down Pennsylvania Avenue. If you have other ideas for who should replace Orszag, throw them in the comments.
-- Tim Fernholz