The president-elect's advisers say Sen. Lloyd Bentsen could end the deadlock between the White House and Congress.
President-elect Bill Clinton picked Sen. Lloyd Bentsen, D-Texas, to be his Treasury secretary to send the political signal that the deadlock between the White House and Congress is over and to assure the financial markets of a calm, steady hand on the nation's economic levers, Clinton advisers said Saturday.
But these advisers, in Washington and in Arkansas, also said Bentsen's selection and the fact that the top candidates for the directorship of the Office of Management and Budget also come from Congress indicated how, after 12 years of Republican presidents, Congress is the only realistic place to turn for experts who have dealt with pivotal matters like taxes and the budget deficit.Clinton apparently set aside concerns that Bentsen might be more valuable as chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, his current post, and that Republicans might win his Senate seat in Texas in a special election next spring.
Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, D-N.Y., said Saturday that if he replaced Bentsen as finance chairman, as he expected, his most important priority would be ``to get the president's agenda through.'
Clinton is expected to announce his choice of Bentsen on Wednesday or Thursday after returning to Little Rock from a two-day trip to Chicago and Washington.
Clinton staff members said that the selections for some other top economic posts would probably be announced then as well, but that the need to complete background checks might delay some announcements.
Roger Altman, a Wall Street investment banker who was a student at Georgetown University with Clinton in the 1960s, is in line to be deputy Treasury secretary, the staff assistants said.
The top candidates to be budget director, probably the second-most-important economic post after Treasury secretary, are said to be Rep. Leon E. Panetta of California, chairman of the House Budget Committee, and Alice M. Rivlin, the first director of the Congressional Budget Office, now an economist at the Brookings Institution.
Rivlin was the early betting favorite, partly because of Clinton's determination to have women in top positions in his administration. But an associate of Clinton said the president-elect's thinking began to change after he read Rivlin's new book and interviewed Panetta. The congressman is now said to be the more likely choice.
In her book, ``Reviving the American Dream,' Rivlin argues for a huge shift away from Washington and to the state capitals of programs like job training and public works that are intended to foster economic development. That is a sharp contrast to Clinton's position that his foremost responsibility as president is to promote economic growth and job creation.
On the other hand, Panetta, a serious legislator with moderate political views and a firm grasp of the budget, was said to have made a strong impression on the president-elect during their interview in Little Rock, Ark., last week.
Panetta would not take reporters' calls Saturday. But in a recent interview, before the prospects of his joining the administration became apparent, he argued that the new president should move quickly to win congressional approval of a five-year plan to cut the federal budget deficit in half. That squares almost precisely with Clinton's stand during the campaign.
In selecting Bentsen, 71, Clinton turned to a veteran lawmaker whose steady temperament and statesmanlike presence became nationally known in 1988 when he was the Democratic vice presidential candidate.
A Clinton adviser said Bentsen's main asset in the president-elect's eyes was his ``deep knowledge of Congress.'
``The issue of overcoming gridlock is fundamental to the success of his presidency, both substantively and politically.'
Another senator who has talked with Clinton about economic appointments characterized Bentsen this way: ``He has an absolute familiarity with all the issues on the table. He has an institutional memory for all the economic decisions, good and bad, in the last generation. He knows taxes. And he has the credentials for fiscal responsibility.'