The White House is planning to poach a leading Republican congressional trade staffer to fill a key post on its National Economic Council, according to administration and private sector sources with knowledge of the staff move.
Everett Eissenstat, now the chief Republican trade counsel for the Senate Finance Committee, will fill the No. 2 spot as deputy director on the National Economic Council, these sources said.
The post is being vacated by Kenneth Juster, whose personality clashes with members of the administration led to a short tenure on the council. Juster is now in line to be President Donald Trump’s nominee for the U.S. ambassador to India, other sources told POLITICO.
The decision is being viewed favorably by Washington’s trade sector. Eissenstat — a longtime trade hand with previous stints in the Office of the United States Trade Representative and Congress — is regarded as someone steeped in the intricacies of trade policy.
The White House declined to comment, saying it had no personnel announcements to make. Neither Eissenstat nor a Finance Committee spokeswoman responded to requests for comment. The appointment would not be subject to Senate approval.
"If they’re interested in Everett, that shows they’re approaching things pretty intelligently, because he’s very, very good,” Finance Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) told POLITICO. "I’d do anything to help the administration do a better job.”
If selected, Eissenstat would also fill the role of deputy assistant to the president for international economic affairs and serve as “sherpa” negotiating U.S. interests at the annual summits involving the G-7, G-20 and Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation nations.
He would be viewed as a key White House policy person who is responsive to the concerns of Hatch and other pro-trade Republicans. That may prove crucial in the lead up to a major renegotiation of NAFTA.
Eissenstat is deeply steeped in the intense give-and-take that often takes place between Congress and the administration during the course of trade negotiations. He played a major role behind the scenes in pushing the Obama administration to address TPP’s perceived shortcomings regarding pharmaceutical patent protections. The TPP deal was ultimately abandoned when Trump assumed office this year.
The economic council would also gain someone with institutional knowledge of North American trade issues. Before joining Hatch’s office in 2011, Eissenstat served as assistant U.S. trade representative for the Western Hemisphere. He also had a previous stint as chief trade counsel on the Finance Committee and worked as legislative director for former Rep. Jim Kolbe, a moderate Republican from Arizona.
A person close to Hatch would not comment on a possible job switch but said Eissenstat was regarded as someone “very important to the committee’s work” on trade, especially NAFTA.
The move would come more than a month after POLITICO reported that Andrew Quinn, a National Economic Council trade adviser who has come under fire from conservatives for his role in negotiating TPP, was reassigned.
Megan Cassella contributed to this report.