Biden Picks BlackRock’s Deese to Lead National Economic Council
Brian Deese. (Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg)

Biden Picks BlackRock’s Deese to Lead National Economic Council

President-elect Joe Biden has chosen Brian Deese, a BlackRock Inc. executive and former economic adviser to President Barack Obama, to lead his National Economic Council, people familiar with the matter said.

Deese, who joined BlackRock in 2017 to oversee the company’s sustainable investment strategies, was a senior adviser to Obama on climate, conservation and energy, and also served as deputy director of the NEC.

His selection adds to the economic team Biden announced Monday, including Janet Yellen as Treasury secretary, Neera Tanden as director of the Office of Management and Budget and Cecilia Rouse to chair the Council of Economic Advisers.

Progressive groups have been critical of Deese, seeing his role at BlackRock as evidence that he was willing to trade his Obama ties for a big paycheck. They’re also unimpressed by his record on climate and have pointed to work he did during the Obama years on deficit reduction as a warning sign that he may not support the significant stimulus spending the left is pushing.

“Any BlackRock executives that move into the Biden administration need to prove that they are willing to take bold, proactive action to stop climate change,” said Moira Birss, climate and finance director at Amazon Watch, a non-profit environmental group that has criticized BlackRock’s track record on sustainability. “This includes regulating their friends and former colleagues on Wall Street in order to rapidly and justly decarbonize the economy and the financial system.”

But Gene Karpinski, president of the League of Conservation Voters, praised the pick.

“The importance of naming Deese, a longtime climate policy expert, to the key role of NEC director cannot be overstated,” he said in a statement. “From his success in helping rebuild the American auto industry with stronger clean car standards, advancing the Paris Climate Agreement, protecting our lands and ocean and much more, he is exactly the experienced climate leader we need at President Biden’s side as they rebuild our economy.”

Deese worked on Obama’s 2008 campaign and joined his administration in 2009. He was part of the task force charged with restructuring the automobile industry and later became deputy director of OMB.

One progressive group, the Revolving Door Project, pointed to testimony from Deese’s 2013 confirmation hearing for his role at OMB as evidence that he supports “austerity.” Deese said then that he’d work toward a “comprehensive deficit reduction agreement” that would include “entitlement reform and tax reform,” and suggested that means-testing Medicare would be one way to make some cuts.

But there’s also evidence of Deese opposing austerity measures. In a 2015 White House blog post, Deese wrote that economic growth during the Obama years “shows that we don’t have to choose between stronger growth and asking the wealthiest to pay their fair share; and that we can finally discard mindless austerity and turn our focus toward further accelerating shared growth.”

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

BQ Install

Bloomberg Quint

Add BloombergQuint App to Home screen.