Biden could identify senior members of the financial group as early as Monday

© Reuters. Tanden speaks on day three of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia

By Trevor Hunnicutt, Valerie Volcovici and Andrea Shalal

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President-elect Joe Biden is expected to appoint Neera Tanden, advisor to former President Barack Obama, as director of the White House budget office, and economist Cecilia Rouse as chair of the economic advisory council soon as Monday after a person who is familiar with the process.

Biden is also expected to select Wally Adeyemo, a senior international economic advisor in the Obama administration, as Janet Yellen's senior assistant at the Treasury Department. Economists Jared Bernstein and Heather Boushey are to be named as members of the Council of Economic Advisers.

Biden has also selected Brian Deese, another Obama adviser, to chair the White House National Economic Council, the New York Times reported, quoting three people with knowledge of the matter.

Biden's transition team declined to comment, while Tanden, Rouse, Adeyemo, Bernstein, Boushey and Deese could not be reached for comment.

Biden's economic decisions have been the subject of a tug-of-war between democratic centrists who want primarily to return to expertise and competence, and progressives who want dramatic steps to fulfill an important democratic election promise to make US capitalism fairer for all. The nominations of Tanden, Rouse and Adeyemo must be confirmed by the Senate.

Just like in 2009 with Obama, whom Biden served as vice president, the new administration on Jan. 20 will inherit a weak economy facing serious short-term challenges.

But this time around, the economic blow caused by the coronavirus pandemic has exposed dramatic wealth and racial differences that Biden's team progressives want to quickly address. They relied heavily on him to avoid corporate lobbyists and prioritize various decisions.

The economic choices to date represent "diversity, deep expertise, extensive Washington experience," said Matt Bennett, co-founder of the centrist democratic political advisory Third Way, and "a return to competence and common sense."

However, some progressives have criticized the selection of Deese, an Obama White House climate official and currently an executive at BlackRock Inc (NYSE :), the world's largest wealth manager.

Jeff Hauser, director of the Revolving Door Project, a group that studies corporate impact on government, said BlackRock's large portion of US policy making could put pressure on Deese to withdraw from some political affairs.

"He will either be absent in large parts of his work or proceed without regard to the conflicts of interest," said Hauser. BlackRock did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The appointment of Tanden, who heads the think tank of the left-wing Center for American Progress and grapples with the progressive camp over their support for Hillary Clinton against Senator Bernie Sanders in the 2016 Democratic presidential contest, is also likely to be criticized from the left.

FOCUS ON INEQUALITY

Rouse, a Princeton University labor economist whose research has focused on the economics of education and tackling wealth inequality, is hugely popular with progressives. She was previously a member of the Obama Council of Economic Advisers.

Criticizing the Trump administration's economic response to the pandemic, Rouse noted on a Princeton University podcast in April that aid to small businesses was not enough. She also advocated more direct help to workers through their employers and expressed concern about the impact of the pandemic on worsening income inequalities.

Adeyemo was a senior White House national security advisor on international economics during the Obama administration and a senior advisor to former Treasury Secretary Jack Lew. He is currently President of the Obama Foundation.

Bernstein was Biden's chief economic advisor when the Obama administration struggled to get the United States out of the great recession.

Boushey is known for his research that focuses on how inequality can hinder economic growth. Boushey, the executive director and co-founder of the Washington Center for Equitable Growth, a progressive economic think tank, has worked with the Biden team as an unofficial economic advisor.

Almost 14 million Americans are receiving unemployment benefits, which will expire on December 26th, and the continued surge in the coronavirus means there is no telling when they might be able to return to work. Biden's economic agenda is likely to focus on getting the country past the coronavirus crisis for both health and economic reasons.

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