New top Obama aide to focus on climate, energy

FILE - In this Monday, Aug. 10, 2009, file photo, Center for American Progress Action Fund President & CEO John Podesta speaks at the National Clean Energy Summit 2.0, at The Cox Pavillion in Las Vegas. Podesta, a former chief of staff to President Bill Clinton and a trusted Democratic operative, will join the White House staff as a senior counselor to President Barack Obama, two persons familiar with the move said late Monday, Dec. 9, 2013. (AP Photo/Eric Jamison, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — John Podesta, a former chief of staff under President Bill Clinton, will join President Barack Obama's inner circle for one year as a counselor to focus on energy and climate change issues, the White House said Tuesday.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said Obama chief of staff Denis McDonough decided to bring Podesta to the White House to help with his experience as a former top White House aide and as the head of Obama's transition team after the 2008 election.

Carney also noted that Podesta in his past White House role focused on policies that could be enacted through executive actions, an approach favored by Obama as well.

Podesta will take his place at the White House at a critical time for Obama as the administration tries to shake off a disastrous enrollment rollout for the health care law and as the president seeks to re-establish his agenda going into a midterm election year.

Asked why Podesta only intended to serve one year, Carney said: "It is an important year."

Podesta is the founder and former president of the Center for American Progress, a Democratic think tank with close ties to the White House.

Well respected in political circles both as a strategist and a policy thinker, Podesta, 64, would likely step into the role currently held by Pete Rouse at the White House. Rouse has served as a counselor and, for a time in 2010, as acting chief of staff for Obama.

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said Obama's appointmen wouldn't resolve problems Obama has had with the Affordable Care Act.

"The issue he wanted to be most associated with is a failure," he said. "And no matter if you move the chairs around on the Titanic it wouldn't solve the problem."


Associated Press writer Henry C. Jackson contributed to this report.