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John Podesta to become top Obama aide

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WASHINGTON (AP) — John 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.

Podesta will take his place at the White House at a critical time for Obama as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) tries to shake itself off from a disastrous enrollment rollout and as the president seeks to re-establish his agenda going into a midterm election 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.

The New York Times first reported Podesta’s move. The two persons familiar with the development confirmed it to The Associated Press on the condition they weren’t named because the announcement was not official.

Podesta, 64, is well respected in political circles both as a strategist and a policy thinker. He would likely step into the role played by Pete Rouse at the White House, who is expected to leave soon after serving as a counselor and, for a time in 2010, as acting chief of staff for Obama.

Podesta attracted health insurers’ attention in 2000, when he noted that the federal government was paying billions of dollars to health insurers at the same time that the health insurers were fighting Democrats’ health proposals. Democrats said the bills would improve protections for patients.

In 2009, Podesta, who was head of the Center for American Progress, a think tank, joined with Mike Duke, chairman of Walmart, and Andrew Stern, president of the Service Employees International Union, to write an open letter supporting the concept of an employer “shared responsibility” health benefits mandate.

Allison Bell contributed to this report. 

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