WASHINGTON – White House budget director Rob Portman resigned Tuesday, forcing President Bush to shuffle key assignments yet again as he seeks to assemble a team to close out his administration.
Bush named Jim Nussle, a former chairman of the House Budget Committee, to replace Portman.
In seven terms as a congressman and during his 14-month tenure as director of the Office of Management and Budget, Portman developed a reputation as a deficit hawk and expert on the complexities of the $2.9 trillion federal budget.
Nussle, 46, a Republican who represented Iowa in the House for 16 years, has been better known for his strict adherence to conservative budget priorities.
“As OMB director, he will use his expertise about the budget process to ensure that the taxpayers’ money is spent with respect and with restraint,” Bush said as Nussle and Portman stood at his side.
The shift comes less than a week after Bush announced that Ed Gillespie, a lobbyist and former chairman of the Republican National Committee, was joining his staff as a White House counselor, replacing longtime aide Dan Bartlett.
Portman’s departure and Nussle’s arrival will have ramifications beyond those in the budget director’s suite in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, next door to the West Wing.
The job, which requires Senate confirmation, goes beyond the nuts and bolts of assembling the budget. It carries responsibility, Bush noted, for implementing defense programs, energy initiatives and tax policies, and, by having a major effect on spending decisions, affects the entire scope of government policy and activities.
Portman, 51, joked that although his title was director of the Office of Management and Budget, “other titles sometimes came my way: Dr. No. Tightwad. Budget hawk. Penny-pincher. And some not suitable for a television audience.”
Portman, who said he wanted to spend more time with his family in Ohio after more than 14 years in public service, is leaving just as Congress is working through individual appropriations bills and the government is beginning to assemble the budget for the 2009 fiscal year to be sent to Congress in February.