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Raines tapped to rein in the federal debt: top economic advisor mans the budget battle front lines.

While the recent death of Commerce Secretary Ron Brown was a tremendous tragedy in and of itself, it also left the Clinton administration with a sudden dearth of African American cabinet members. And while White House officials won't say the selection of Franklin D. Raines to head the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) was a direct result of that loss, his nomination does suddenly place another African American in the middle of an ongoing fray. At stake is where and how the $1.57 trillion outlined in the 1996 federal budget will be spent.

Raines' appointment would make him one of three African American cabinet members in the administration. The others are Energy Department Chief Hazel O'Leary and Jesse Brown, secretary of Veterans Affairs.

Fortunately, everything happened so fast, says Raines, he didn't think about his own bank account when he accepted the $148,400-a-year job. His new salary is a sizable cut from the $2.25 million he earned last year as vice chairman of the Fannie Mae Mortgage Co. "My view is that when the President of the United States says he needs your help, you have to have a very good reason to say no," he says. "And money is not one of them."

This is not the first time Clinton has called on Raines, a Rhodes Scholar who served on the White House domestic policy staff and as OMB associate director for general government in the Carter administration. During the transition period between the Bush and Clinton administrations, Raines served as Clinton's economic advisor and was responsible for all the agencies and departments that deal with the nation's economic health, including Treasury, Commerce and Labor.

Under Raines' leadership, Fannie Mae began partnerships with HUD and local lenders in Baltimore and other cities across the country. Raines led an effort to reduce the cost of every mortgage by about $1,000, enabling more families to become homeowners.

This time around, Raines' experience will be much needed, says Alexis Herman, assistant to the President and director of the Office of Public Liaison, "He understands the White House, he understands the Hill and there's no substitute for having worked for a U.S. President before."

But if successfully confirmed as Clinton's budget chief, Raines will be dead center in a long-running and brutal debate in Washington: balancing the federal budget. "OMB is the agency that not only helps the President on all budgetary matters but, in essence, helps run the government," says White House Communications Director Larry Haas. In addition to preparing the President's budget proposals and pushing them through Congress, OMB also works closely with all federal agencies to oversee how they spend and manage their resources. "It is literally right at the center of almost everything that happens," Haas adds.

For Raines, it's a question of priorities. "The big issue is going to be how we spend $1.5 trillion in a balanced budget," he says. "There won't be any new money, so the old money is going to have to move around to the new priorities, and that's going to be a very tough process."

Clinton's choice of Raines, says Baltimore Mayor Kurt Schmoke, was an opportunity for the President to show his commitment to excellence. It's also an opportunity for the nation to see the excellence that exists in the minority community, according to Schmoke, who studied at Oxford and Harvard Law School with Raines. "There are a few jobs as important a jobs as OMB director," notes William Spriggs, a senior economist with the congressional Joint Economic Committee. "Balancing the budget is the most important discussion going on, and minorities have not had a player at the table." We do now.
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Title Annotation:Franklin D. Raines, head of Office of Management and Budget
Author:Jones, Joyce
Publication:Black Enterprise
Date:Aug 1, 1996
Previous Article:Repelling the siege.
Next Article:Wrangling for the chair: Rangel set to head influential Ways and Means Committee.

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