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Dems question Obama on Summers for Fed chair post

Meeting behind closed doors with House Democrats Wednesday, President Barack Obama faced questions from his own party about his reported consideration of Larry Summers as the next chairman of the Federal Reserve.

Summers, a former Treasury Secretary under the Clinton administration and the director of the White House National Economic Council during Obama's first term, is among the candidates whose names have been floated to replace current head Ben Bernanke. 

Evan Vucci / AP

President Barack Obama talks with House Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi of Calif., after a meeting on Capitol Hill with the House Democratic Caucus in the Capitol Visitors Center, Wednesday, July 31, 2013, in Washington.

Aides tell NBC News that Obama was first asked about Summers in the meeting by Rep. Ed Perlmutter, D-Colo., a member of the House Financial Services Committee and a critic of the former Treasury head. 

Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., characterized Obama’s response as a "powerful" and "full-throated defense."

"He was the Rock of Gibraltar in trying to work through policies to turn the economy around, and I'm not going to stand idly by and let his name be disparaged and his reputation trashed because people have a political agenda about who should or should not be the Chairman of the Federal Reserve,” Obama said of Summers, according to Connolly.

Some Democrats are not keen on Summers as a candidate for the job, arguing that he was too supportive of deregulation during the Clinton administration. Nineteen Democratic senators – joined by an independent - signed a letter last week urging the president to instead consider Fed Vice Chairman Janet Yellen. Other candidates may in the mix as well.

President Barack Obama provides a brief comment on his meeting with congressional Democrats Wednesday, while House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi praised the president for his approach to creating American jobs.

"He is really a non-starter for us," one senior Democratic staffer said of Summers. "Putting him in the Fed position would basically ensure that every wrong-headed monetary policy will be adopted. His entire school of thought is antithetical to a progressive economic policy, and a progressive monetary policy."

After the meeting, some Democratic leaders downplayed how forceful Obama was in his defense.

"He did make a -- I don't want to say a defense, but he just spoke of what he thought about Larry Summers," House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi told the press after the meeting, "But it wasn't really about Larry Summers."

Rep. Steve Israel , D-Calif., added that the president told the Democratic Caucus that he has yet to make a decision about who would will ultimately get the post and that "many people will be considered, we're going to make sure it's a diverse group," Israel said.

"He did talk about Larry Summers' qualities, but he also said there were many other candidates with their own qualities," Israel said, "So this meeting was not an endorsement or lack of an endorsement of Larry Summers or anybody else for the Fed."

 

 

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