Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.), a wily, aggressive West Wing strategist under President Bill Clinton, has accepted the post of White House chief of staff for President-elect Barack Obama, Democratic officials tell Politico.
The selection is the first major public decision by Obama since he was elected in a landslide on Tuesday.
The announcement will send a signal that Obama is eager to work with Congress and plans a swift launch of an aggressive agenda that will focus on the economy, taxes, energy, education and health care.
Republicans attacked the selection, however. House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) said in a statement: “This is an ironic choice for a President-elect who has promised to change Washington, make politics more civil, and govern from the center.”
Obama plans to move briskly with his transition announcements and has also decided on longtime aide Robert Gibbs as his White House press secretary. Democratic sources say he also could make quick decisions on his economic and national security teams.
"The chief" is sometimes known as the second most powerful person in Washington. The job has vast authority, as the boss of the hundreds of aides who work directly for the president, a public face of the administration on television, and a negotiator and salesman on Capitol Hill.
The appointment was the first Obama offered after his election, and Emanuel pondered the opportunity for about 24 hours. Friends said Emanuel accepted the job because he thought it was important to serve this historic administration despite the potential strain on his wife, Amy Rule, and their three children, who live in the Chicago area.
At 49, Emanuel is two years older than his new boss.
Emanuel had been on track to eventually become House Speaker. But friends say he decided the career detour would be symbolic of what Obama calls for in people and a signal of how important this time is for the country. Emanuel viewed the decision as being not about personal advancement, but about putting aside personal ambition to bring change to the country, the friends said.
Emanuel is the fourth-ranking House Democratic leader and holds the title of Democratic Caucus Chairman. His departure will touch off a leadership fight among House Democrats, whose majority was fattened on Tuesday. He is also a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, which is among the most desirable assignments in Congress.
As chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Emanuel was the relentless architect of the Democrats' House takeover in 2006, and some Republicans said the choice sends a partisan signal at time when Obama is promising a new politics.
But Obama advisers say he likes and trusts Emanuel and believes his mastery of Capitol Hill will help speed his proposals at a time when money is tight and the nation's problems are great.
Emanuel has a hard-nosed style and is known for aggressively working the press. Despite his combative political instincts, he has working relationships with many congressional Republicans, including Rep. Adam Putnam (R-Fla.), a rising GOP star who said after his reelection this week that he plans to leave his No. 3 post in the party's House leadership.
The runner-up for the post was former Sen. Tom Daschle (D-S.D.), who may take another senior post in the administration.
Emanuel is known as a centrist and a pragmatic dealmaker. Under Clinton, he helped engineer passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement, which is opposed by the party's left wing.
From his official biography: "Emanuel began his career with the consumer rights organization Illinois Public Action. He worked on Paul Simon’s 1984 election to the U.S. Senate and in 1989 served as a senior adviser and chief fundraiser for Richard M. Daley. Emanuel served as a senior adviser to President Bill Clinton. After leaving the White House, Emanuel returned to Chicago to serve as a managing director at a leading global investment bank.
"Emanuel graduated from Sarah Lawrence College in 1981 and received a Master’s Degree in Speech and Communication from Northwestern University in 1985. He is a resident of Chicago’s Ravenswood neighborhood where he and his wife are raising three children."