In his drive to deliver Americans $1.9 trillion in economic relief, President Joe Biden is turning to a trusted aide known more for his record of forging compromises on some of the nation’s most charged issues than he is for his progressive politics.

Brian Deese, director of Biden’s National Economic Council, stepped down from his position at BlackRock Inc. to become the White House frontman in the fight to push a stimulus through a Congress deeply divided over the substance and price tag of the rescue package.

The White House is banking on Deese’s data-driven and firm but low-key approach to bridge the chasm between the most progressive wing of the Democratic party and moderate Republicans — amid intense pressure from outside groups — to deliver a bipartisan rescue package.

Biden “wasn’t looking for someone to have a very different point of view, or steer things in a different direction,” White House chief of staff Ron Klain said in an interview. “He was looking for someone to make the wheels of government deliver the views he has.”

Thorny and urgent rescues aren’t new to Deese. As a senior staffer in Barack Obama’s administration, he helped craft the 2009 auto bailout, the 2015 Bipartisan Budget Act and the Paris climate accord. Still, Washington has become even more divided since he left government in 2016, leaving Deese with the task of appealing to widely divergent factions, including centrist Democrats, moderate Republicans and powerful liberal senators including Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

“He is bringing his experiences from the Obama administration that led to many successes and frustrating losses,” said Democratic Senator Ed Markey, who has known Deese for years. “He has the benefit of that experience of the pathway to victory, but knows also how to avoid defeat. That is a hard won set of lessons that he has internalized, and the Biden agenda will be the beneficiary of his experiences.”

Urgent Push

White House aides and allies say they feel enormous urgency to prop up the economy, direct more money toward vaccines and reopen schools during Biden’s first 100 days in office. Republicans have argued the $1.9 trillion price tag is far too high and filled with Democrat pet policies, like raising the minimum wage. And even some more moderate Democrats have balked at the cost.

Photographer: Ken Cedeno/CNP/Bloomberg

While economists and the Congressional Budget Office have painted a mixed picture of the economy and the pace of growth, Deese and other administration officials say action now will determine the health of the labor market over the next several years.

“It is not just a $1.9 trillion package. It is a package to try to say, ‘We are actually trying to get to a place where we close that employment gap much much faster’ and it is motivated by experience, including 2009, but also stepping back and looking at what we know about crisis response more generally,” Deese said in an interview.

“When we look at economic crises, it is more often policy makers do too little than too much,” he added. “If you under-invest in these areas of crisis, it becomes a persistent drag on growth.”

BlackRock to White House

Originally, Deese, 42, wasn’t sure he wanted to return to the federal government.

The father of two young children and a fan of running and Boston sports, he was enjoying New England life in Brookline, Massachusetts, where he was the global head of sustainable investing at BlackRock.

He had informally worked on several of the Biden campaign’s policy proposals — including the climate and economic agendas. During the campaign, Deese wasn’t as close to candidate Biden as other economic aides, including Jared Bernstein, Ben Harris and Heather Boushey.

But shortly after the election, Biden settled on Deese for the top economic job after the transition team briefly also considered him for the director of the Office of Management and Budget. One transition aide said Biden genuinely enjoys Deese’s company — a feeling Biden doesn’t have for all aides.

Inside the transition, Deese was regarded as a fair broker who could manage complex ideas and processes without imposing his own ideological views or warring with other advisers. Some of Biden’s advisers believe such conflicts were a drag on Obama’s initial economic team.

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