Today’s big personnel news is Peter Orszag’s decision to leave the White House budget office sometime in the next few weeks. The departure, which has already sparked speculation on possible replacements, will be the Obama administration’s first major exit. Whoever the White House picks to replace him will have big shoes to fill.
As the director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), Orszag played a key role in two of the biggest pieces of progressive legislation we’ll see in our lifetime: the economic stimulus package and the health care reform bill. On the latter, in particular, Orszag’s acumen and advocacy were key assets, his forceful case for the bill’s cost-cutting properties no doubt crucial in bolstering support for a gigantic piece of social legislation. It’s worth noting that his contributions to passing health reform began well before his stint at OMB. As the director of the Congressional Budget Office in 2007-2008, Orszag repeatedly sounded the alarm on rising health costs as the biggest threat to our fiscal future, warnings that undoubtedly helped set the stage for reform’s passage.
For an administration numbers-cruncher, he was unusually visible, which was a good thing. With a reputation for impartiality and brilliance, Orszag gave the administration’s agenda analytical ballast. There will no doubt be efforts on the right to brush Orszag with the red ink that the administration finds itself swimming in, but that’s politics as usual. Inheriting the worst economy since the 1930s, Orszag presided over the Herculean task of preventing a complete meltdown and setting the foundation for a recovery. In many ways, he’s a reflection of the administration at its best: a rigorous, pragmatic empiricist.
Photo credit: Center for American Progress’ Photostream