Congress and Wall St meet in Clinton team

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WASHINGTON - In the first appointments to his administration, President-elect Bill Clinton has chosen an economic team which contains a pragmatic balance of congressional experience and Wall Street expertise, writes Rupert Cornwell.

As expected, the top post of Treasury Secretary goes to Senator Lloyd Bentsen, the elder statesman of Capitol Hill, who chairs the influential Senate Finance Committee. His deputy will be Roger Altman, a New York banker and college friend of Mr Clinton who worked at the Treasury Department in the Carter years.

At the White House Mr Clinton is opting for a similar mixture: Representative Leon Panetta, head of the House Budget Committee, will be budget director, while Robert Rubin, co-chairman of the Goldman Sachs investment bank, will lead a new National Economic Council - acting as the new President's senior in-house economic adviser and policy co-ordinator.

The last of the five appointments announced by Mr Clinton in Little Rock yesterday, brings in the first of several women likely to be given high posts in the new administration. She is Alice Rivlin, the former Congressional Budget Office director, who will be Mr Panetta's No 2 at the Office of Budget and Management.

With his choices Mr Clinton has been faithful to his moderate political instincts. His nominees are not radically minded 'outsiders', but a centrist group tailored to achieve his two priorities: of reassuring financial markets yet simultaneously getting his economic proposals on to the statute book in the shortest possible time.

As two of Capitol Hill's most seasoned operatives, Mr Bentsen and Mr Panetta are ideally equipped to steer Mr Clinton's plans for higher taxes on the wealthy, modest cuts for middle-income earners, investment-tax cuts and expanded infrastructure spending through Congress. Mr Clinton has gone some way to dispelling market fears that a Democratic White House might mean larger federal deficits and increased protectionism.