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Economic Team Obama: Will It Help Settle Markets?

Financial Crisis
CNBC.com
Financial Crisis

President-elect Barack Obama will announce the leaders of his economic team Monday, naming Timothy Geithner as treasury secretary and Lawrence Summers to direct the National Economic Council, transition officials said.

If confirmed by the Senate, Geithner, 47, president of the New York Federal Reserve, would be the top Cabinet official in charge of leading the administration's response to the global economic crisis. Word of his likely selection Friday helped send the Dow Jones Industrials soaring 500 points after several days of steep losses.

One top Democrat said John Podesta, a leader of Obama's transition team, had told Senate aides on Friday that Obama hoped for speedy confirmation so the new administration could get to work quickly thereafter.

Geithner (pronounced GITE-ner) served as a Treasury Department official during the Clinton administration, where he played a major role in negotiating assistance packages for South Korea and Brazil.

Obama scheduled to have press conference Monday at 12 noon EST: Live coverage on CNBC.com.

Summers, 53, a former treasury secretary under President Bill Clinton and one-time president of Harvard University, will advise Obama from the White House. Officials said he would coordinate the federal response to the economic meltdown across several agencies, including a plan Obama announced Saturday to create or save 2.5 million jobs by rebuilding infrastructure and modernizing schools while developing alternative energy sources and more efficient cars.

During the Clinton administration, Summers helped craft the U.S. support program for Mexico during its 1995 financial crisis. He later helped lead the U.S. response to the Asian financial crisis of 1997.

Geithner and Summers were scheduled to appear with Obama at a press conference in Chicago Monday morning.

Update: Peter Orszag, a former Clinton administration economic aide, is expected to be tapped by Obama as the White House budget director. Orszag has been director of the Congressional Budget Office since January 2007. Also expected to be part of the team is University of Chicago economist Austan Goolsbee, a longtime adviser to Obama. Goolsbee has been discussed as a leading contender for the White House Council of Economic Advisers. Jason Furman, Obama's top economic policy coordinator during the presidential campaign, is likely to get a senior role, probably as the No. 2 official at the National Economic Council.

Gibbs as press secretary

The announcement comes as Obama moves quickly to fill slots for his incoming administration. On Saturday, he named longtime spokesman Robert Gibbs as White House press secretary.

Ellen Moran will be director of communications in charge of getting Obama's message out. Her deputy in the White House will be Dan Pfeiffer, the communications director for Obama's presidential transition team.

Barack Obama
CNBC.com
Barack Obama

In other positions, Obama is virtually certain to offer Congressional Budget Office chief Peter Orszag the job of directing the White House Office of Budget and Management, and Orszag is likely to accept, Democratic officials said Saturday.

New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton also is in line to become secretary of state, while Obama's choice for attorney general is Eric Holder. He held the No. 2 slot in the Justice Department in President Bill Clinton's administration.

Officials said New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson had emerged as a likely pick as commerce secretary, although he had hoped to be secretary of state. Like Clinton, he was a rival of Obama's for the Democratic presidential nomination last winter. He dropped out after the early contests, though, and soon threw his support behind the eventual winner. The officials spoke only on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss the anticipated appointments.

The president-elect has largely stayed out of public view since his election on Nov. 4, preferring to work quietly with aides and Vice President-elect Joe Biden in a suite of offices in downtown Chicago.

Obama faces unusual challenges and has moved quickly in assembling his team. Former President George H.W. Bush made his first Cabinet pick the day after his election in 1988, but former President Clinton did not name any members until after Thanksgiving. President George W. Bush's transition was delayed by the contested result in Florida.

While speculation has been rampant about most top-level appointments, there has been relatively little about Obama's choice for defense secretary. His aides encouraged speculation before the election that Robert Gates, who now holds the position, would remain in office for an interim period.

Former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota has been chosen as secretary of health and human services and Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano is likely to be named as secretary of the Homeland Security Department.

National security pick?

Napolitano was an early supporter of candidate Obama among the ranks of Democratic governors, as was Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas. Sebelius has figured prominently in recent days in speculation as possible secretary of labor.

Additionally, retired Gen. James Jones, a former Marine Corps commandant and NATO commander, was among those under consideration for national security adviser. James Steinberg, an Obama campaign aide who served in Clinton's White House, was another possibility, according to officials.

Obama has repeatedly referred to the economic crisis as the top priority for his new administration. Geithner held posts in the Treasury Department under three administrations and five secretaries before moving to the New York Fed in 2003. He also held positions at the International Monetary Fund and was employed at the private firm of former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.

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