President-elect 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 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 aides said 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.
In selecting Bentsen, 71, Clinton turned to a veteran lawmaker whose steady temperament and states-man-like 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," the adviser said.