Spratt praises Obama budget choice

WASHINGTON -- Rep. John Spratt on Tuesday praised President-elect Barack Obama's choice of Peter Orszag as White House budget director and expressed relief the job wasn't offered to him.

Spratt, a York Democrat and chairman of the House Budget Committee, had been on the short list of candidates to head the White House Office of Budget and Management.

"They spared me an agonized decision," Spratt said. "I'm happy to stay where I am. I'm glad they didn't make me the offer. They chose the person I would have chosen."

Spratt said Obama's aides hadn't vetted him for the White House post and that he hadn't filled out the long questionnaire applicants for senior positions must complete.

"The damn thing is 64 pages long!" Spratt said.

Orszag, 40, has headed the Congressional Budget Office since January 2007, a post in which Spratt has come to know him well.

The bipartisan CBO has released a series of reports Spratt requested on the rising federal deficit and the costs of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

Spratt used the CBO reports as the basis for hearings he held on those issues.

"I do know him well," Spratt said of Orszag. "I have really the highest regard for him. He's an excellent choice for that particular job. He's a very amiable guy who gets along with and knows (lawmakers on) both sides of the aisle."

Orszag, Spratt said, has worked in the legislative and executive branches of federal government, written three books on economic policy and with his brother founded a successful firm that analyzed antitrust data.

"He's exceptionally well-rounded," Spratt said. "His work has always been top-class."

Spratt said he had known that Orszag would be Obama's budget chief for at least two weeks but was "sworn to secrecy." Orszag has also called him to discuss the post.

Obama also praised Obama's selection of Rob Nabors, staff director of the House Appropriations Committee, to be the White House deputy budget chief.

"He's one of the best staffers in the House," Spratt said. "He knows the appropriations process inside and out."