WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama elevated his longtime adviser Austan Goolsbee to chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers on Friday, signaling his determination to stand by an economic team that has faced criticism for the slow pace of the recovery.
Goolsbee's appointment caps a week in which Obama looked to regain his footing on the economy, calling for a series of infrastructure investments and business tax credits that the administration hopes will ease the worries of anxious voters, as well as Democrats who fear the sluggish economy could lead to sweeping losses for the party in the midterm elections.
The 41-year-old Goolsbee is already a central player on the Obama economic team, having served on the three-member economic council since the start of the administration. He was economic adviser on Obama's 2004 Senate race and a senior economic policy adviser during the 2008 presidential campaign.
On Friday, Obama praised Goolsbee as a brilliant economist who "has a deep appreciation of how the economy affects everyday people and he talks about it in a way that's easily understood."
Goolsbee takes over the council's chairmanship from Christina Romer, who left the White House Sept. 3 to return to a teaching position at the University of California Berkley.
Romer, one of the few high-ranking women on the economic team, was credited with raising the profile of the Council, which analyzes economic data and makes policy recommendations to the president. Romer was a constant presence at the president's economic briefings, alongside Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and Larry Summers, director of the National Economic Council.
Administration officials said Goolsbee's relationship with Geithner and Summers is already well-established and his take-over of the advisory group should ensure a smooth transition for the economic team. Obama underscored that point Friday, noting that his longtime adviser, "already knows and works with the rest of the team very well."
But with unemployment near 10 percent, some of Obama's critics say the president should have appointed someone with a fresh perspective.
House Minority Leader John Boehner, who called for Obama to fire his entire economic team during a speech last month, said Goolsbee's appointment, "represents a commitment to more of the same failed stimulus policies."
"This president urgently needs people around him who've created jobs in the private sector and understand the challenges small businesses face, people who aren't wed to the worn-out notion that our nation can simply spend its way back to prosperity," Boehner continued in a statement.
However, one administration official said Goolsbee could be the right choice to shake-up an economic team that's grasping for ways to spur growth and create jobs. While Romer was a strong, influential voice on the overall state of the economy, the official said Goolsbee is more of a creative thinker who is likely to challenge the assertions of other members of the team, including the president. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to discuss internal White House matters.
Goolsbee's promotion doesn't require Senate confirmation because he was already confirmed as a member of the Council last year.