By Julie Pace, Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) — The departure of President Barack Obama's top economic adviser at the end of the year could provide the White House with an opportunity to revamp its economic team after the November elections, when voters are expected to take out their anxieties on Democrats.
The White House said Tuesday that Lawrence Summers, director of the National Economic Council, would leave at the end of the year to return to Harvard University. Though administration officials said Obama had known for some time that Summers would depart this year, news of his pending exit comes amid deep concern over the sluggish pace of the recovery, as well as criticism of the team that conceived the administration's economic policies.
Summers was the chief architect of many of those policies, playing a central role in the massive economic stimulus and the government bailout of the auto industry. He also was an advocate for the financial regulatory legislation Obama signed into law earlier this year.
But with those issues behind him and the end of his two-year leave from Harvard looming, a senior administration official said Summers felt it was the right time to go.
Summers, who served as treasury secretary during the Clinton administration, hadn't planned to return to government, the official said, but felt compelled to do so by the president and the economic conditions facing the country. He only wanted to stay for a year, but Obama asked him to stay through 2010 to oversee financial regulation and the implementation of the stimulus, said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal White House matters.
In a statement, the president said he was grateful for Summers' service during a time of "great peril for our country."
"While we have much work ahead to repair the damage done by the recession, we are on a better path thanks in no small measure to Larry's wise counsel," Obama said.