CONGRESS

Biden Appoints Brian Deese, Architect of Auto Industry Bailout, to Lead National Economic Council

Andrew Harrer | Bloomberg | Getty Images
  • Deese is a former deputy director of the National Economic Council, deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget, and senior advisor to President Obama.
  • During his years in the Obama White House, Deese played a central role in crafting the global climate-change agreement that was reached in Paris in 2015.
  • Some progressives have raised concerns about Deese's work for BlackRock, the globe's largest asset manager.

President-elect Joe Biden on Thursday announced that Brian Deese, currently the head of sustainable investing at BlackRock, will be the director of the National Economic Council.

Deese is a former deputy director of the National Economic Council, deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget, and senior advisor to President Obama.

The appointment, which does not require Senate confirmation, underscores the president-elect's focus on both restoring the economy from the Covid-19 recession as well as refocusing U.S. efforts to combat the effects and causes of climate change.

"Brian is among the most tested and accomplished public servants in the country," Biden said in a statement.

He is "a trusted voice I can count on to help us end the ongoing economic crisis, build a better economy that deals everybody in, and take on the existential threat of climate change in a way that creates good-paying American jobs," Biden added.

After working on Obama's 2008 campaign, Deese joined the White House as a member of the National Economic Council and was later promoted to deputy director. It was during this time that Deese took a leading role in orchestrating the bailout and reorganization of the U.S. automobile industry.

In later years, he became a senior advisor to Obama on issues that in part focused on climate change and energy. He eventually played a central role in crafting the global climate-change agreement that was reached in Paris in 2015.

President Donald Trump pulled the U.S. out of the landmark climate agreement during his tenure, though Biden has said he will reverse that decision.

Larry Kudlow, a former CNBC contributor, is Trump's current NEC director after he replaced Gary Cohn in 2018.

Some progressives have raised concerns about Deese's work for BlackRock, the globe's largest asset manager, arguing that the president's chief economic advisor should not have close ties to corporations and the finance industry.

But Deese's work for BlackRock centered on the manager's sustainable investment strategy as part of a top-down initiative to invest in and promote companies that demonstrate a track record of good governance and work to reduce their impact on the environment.

Larry Fink, the CEO of BlackRock and Deese's boss, has repeatedly stressed his firm's growing focus on sustainable investment and climate change. In his 2020 letter to CEOs, Fink himself wrote that "Climate Risk Is Investment Risk."

Through Deese, Biden will likely seek to advance a climate-friendly agenda using economic policy as a vehicle.

This tactic is evident throughout Biden's "Build Back Better" proposals, a broad economic strategy that attempts to boost the U.S. economy through a greater focus on equitability, income equality, tax reform and policy backed by environmental activists.

The president-elect has promised some $2 trillion over the next four years to reduce carbon emissions and bolster the amount of renewable energy used for electricity generation.

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