Bush nominates Portman to head OMB
President Bush Tuesday pulled Robert Portman off his watch as U.S. Trade Representative to be White House budget director.
The move starts what could be a major reshuffle of the White House policy team as Bush and his new chief of staff, Joshua Bolton, look to recover from a series of missteps that has hurt the president’s popularity and his political effectiveness.
In his first day on the job Monday, Bolton suggested that many changes could be in the works, and asked officials who planned to resign within the year to do so immediately.
Portman, a former congressman from Ohio, would head the Office of Management and Budget, the position that Bolton held before moving to the White House to replace Andrew Card as chief of staff. Portman has been U.S. Trade Representative for less than a year.
Portman has negotiated free trade agreements with Bahrain, Oman, Columbia and Peru.
The OMB director is one of the most powerful positions in the government, especially in the Bush administration where almost all departmental spending and policy proposals go to be vetted.
Bush said he has nominated Portman’s deputy, Susan Schwab, to succeed him as Trade Representative.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the U.S. Council for International Business issued statements praising Schwab’s selection as the next trade representative because of her skill and the continuity it would provide during a busy year of trade negotiations.
The United States is trying to conclude several bilateral trade agreements as well as the Doha Round of the World Trade Organization’s global trade talks this year.
The Senate must confirm both nominees.