WASHINGTON -- President-elect Bill Clinton formally announced his choices yesterday to fill the top economic policy positions in his new administration, offering a team that combines Capitol Hill veterans with Wall Street professionals.
As expected, Clinton named Senate Finance Committee Chairman Lloyd Bentsen, D-Tex., to be Treasury secretary. The 71-year-old legislator, with his wide experience in tax and budget legislation in the Senate, is expected to be a forceful salesman of Clinton's economic programs in the next Congress.
Robert Rubin, who is 54 and co-chairman of Goldman, Sachs & Co., was named to head the new economic security council that Clinton plans to create to coordinate all cabinet-level policy decisions.
House Budget Committee Chairman Leon Panetta, D.-Calif., was selected to head the Office of Management and Budget. Panetta has earned a reputation in the House as a devotee of long-term deficit reduction.
Also as expected, Roger Altman, vice chairman of the Blackstone Group and head of the firm's worldwide mergers and acquisition business, was named to serve Bentsen as deputy secretary of the Treasury.
Alice Rivlin, former head of the Congressional Budget Office, agreed to be the deputy director of the budget office under Panetta. Rivlin, who is currently a scholar at the Brookings Institution, won high praise in Congress for her expertise and level-headed analysis during her tenure at the budget office.
Noticeably absent yesterday was any appointment to head up the President's Council of Economic Advisers. Laura Tyson, currently a professor of economics and business administration at the University of California, Berkeley, is reportedly the top choice for the position, but Clinton gave no clues as to whether she will be named.
Clinton introduced his selections at a press conference in Little Rock, stressing that he hopes his new economic team will produce a sound long-term program that revives investment and reduces the budget deficit. The theme was repeated by Bentsen and others, who said they are anxious to work with a Democratic President and implement a new agenda.
Clinton admitted that he has had disagreements with Panetta and Rivlin on budget issues, but said he wanted people who could present "good, honest numbers" that members of Congress will believe.
Bentsen and Panetta dismissed arguments that they are political insiders who will not bring fresh ideas to the legislative arena. "I felt like an outsider for 12 years," said Bentsen. "Believe me, I'm tired of gridlock."
Clinton rejected suggestions that he is downgrading the Council of Economic Advisers by not naming someone to head it up along with the other top appointments unveiled yesterday. In fact, he said, he intends to upgrade the council by giving it a greater role in White House decision making, along with the Energy Department and other cabinet-level agencies.
Rubin said he does not expect to have any major problems working with Bentsen, who Clinton said will continue to function as the President's chief economic spokesman. "It simply is not going to happen," said Rubin, noting that he has known Bentsen for 10 years.
Clinton repeated his desire to improve the economy and said he is not convinced it is permanently on the mend, as indicated by the recent government statistical reports. He said, "The evidence on whether we're coming out of it is mixed and uncertain."