WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama has chosen three people to join the senior ranks of the Treasury Department, where a slow pace of hiring has put the agency on the defensive.
The White House on Sunday said Obama is nominating David S. Cohen to be assistant secretary in dealing with terrorist financing; Alan B. Krueger for assistant secretary for economic policy; and Kim N. Wallace as assistant secretary for legislative affairs.
Each nominee is already serving as a counselor to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner. All three are now subject to Senate confirmation.
"With the leadership of these accomplished individuals and our whole economic team, I am absolutely confident that we will turn around this economy and seize this opportunity to secure a more prosperous future," Obama said in a statement.
As the government tries to help the nation climb out of recession and deep, crippling troubles in its banking sector, the Treasury Department is playing a vital management role.
Yet Geithner has been criticized for getting his department up to full staff too slowly, with few people authorized to make decisions or represent the agency in outside meetings.
As some on Wall Street, Capitol Hill and in the media question the pace of Treasury's staffing, the agency says the criticism is unfounded, and that it has not been slowed in its work while the vetting and nomination process unfolds.
Treasury officials say that in perspective, the pace of its top staffing is not behind that of recent administrations. The agency says it has been aggressive in dealing with a financial crisis, a struggling auto industry and a wave of home foreclosures.
"There's about 50 political appointees that have been appointed, that are at work with Secretary Geithner in the Treasury," said Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine, the Democratic National Committee chairman, when asked Sunday about the lack of key staffing at Treasury.
"But again, this is, acknowledged, a very, very difficult situation," Kaine said on "Fox News Sunday." "We're dealing with a financial problem on our own shores and a decline in the stock market that started long ago."
Cohen until recently served as a partner at the law firm of Wilmerhale, and he worked as a Treasury Department lawyer immediately before joining the firm in 2001.
Krueger is a longtime professor of economics and public affairs at Princeton University who has garnered numerous honors for his work as a labor economist.
Wallace was a managing director and head of the Washington Research Group at Barclays Capital before becoming a counselor to Geithner. Wallace worked for 14 years at Lehman Brothers Inc. and served as a legislative aide to former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell.
Two other people considered likely for key posts at Treasury withdrew from consideration in the last week.
Annette Nazareth, the potential chief deputy to Geithner and a former senior staffer and commissioner with the Securities and Exchange Commission, made "a personal decision" to withdraw from the process, according to a person familiar with her decision.
Some on Capitol Hill had expressed concern that Nazareth was too closely associated with the weak federal oversight that contributed to the banking collapse.
Geithner's choice for undersecretary of international affairs, Caroline Atkinson, also withdrew from consideration, The Wall Street Journal reported last week.
On the Net:
Treasury Department: http://www.ustreas.gov/
White House: http://www.whitehouse.gov/