Rep. Rahm Emmanuel formally accepted President-elect Barack Obama’s request to be the White House chief of staff.
Obama and Emmanuel issued a joint statement Thursday. Obama called the appointment “central” to pushing forth his agenda as president.
“Rahm spent several years in the private sector, where he worked on large and complicated financial transactions. That experience, combined with his service on the committees on Ways and Means and Banking, have given Rahm deep insights into the challenging economic issues that will be front and center for our Administration,” Obama said.
Emmanuel was mulling over Obama’s offer. “Now is a time for unity, and Mr. President-elect, I will do everything in my power to help you stitch together the frayed fabric of our politics, and help summon Americans of both parties to unite in common purpose,” Emmanuel said.
Emanuel, 48, serves in the House Democratic leadership and will have to resign his seat and put aside hopes of becoming House speaker. The Chicago Democrat began carving out a name for himself as a senior staffer during the Clinton administration.
Emanuel currently serves on the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, which oversees taxes, trade, Social Security, and Medicare issues. In January 2007, Emanuel’s fellow Democrats elected him to serve as Democratic Caucus Chair, the 4th highest ranking Member of the House Democratic Leadership.
He was elected to Congress in 2002 and rose quickly through the ranks of the Democratic Party. He was chairman of the Democratic Congressional Committee during the 2006 election.
Emanuel began his career with the consumer-rights organization Illinois Public Action. He worked on Paul Simon’s 1984 election to the U.S. Senate and in 1989 served as a senior adviser and chief fundraiser for Richard M. Daley. After leaving the White House, Emanuel returned to Chicago to serve as a managing director at a global investment bank.
Emanuel graduated from Sarah Lawrence College in 1981, and has a master’s degree in speech and communication from Northwestern University. He is married with three young children, son, Zacharias, and daughters, Ilana and Leah.
The Republican National Committee weighed in with criticism of Obama’s choice, saying the choice strikes a discordant note because “Obama spoke endlessly … of ushering in a new era in politics” and Emmanuel is a seasoned Washington insider. To head up his transition efforts,