WASHINGTON – President Obama’s choice of White House Chief of Staff Jack Lew to be his next Treasury secretary may open a battle over the president’s tax and spending priorities for his second term.
Obama announced Thursday afternoon that Lew, 57, is his pick to replace Timothy Geithner. The nomination is subject to confirmation by the Senate, and some Republicans in the chamber have indicated they’re eager for an early showdown with the administration over the budget and raising the federal debt limit.
Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., said in a statement that Lew is a bad choice for Treasury secretary because he made outrageous and false statements to Congress that Obama’s budget wouldn’t add to the national debt.
We need a secretary of Treasury that the American people, the Congress, and the world will know is up to the task of getting America on the path to prosperity, not the path to decline, he said. Jack Lew is not that man.
Democrats expressed confidence that Lew, who twice served as director of the Office of Management and Budget, would be confirmed by the Senate, where the party controls 55 of 100 votes.
If the Republicans choose to make this a controversial nomination, it will only be because they want to score political points, Jim Manley, a former aide to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, said. Jack has been confirmed twice, and I expect him to be confirmed a third time.
Geithner, 51, the only remaining member of Obama’s original economic team, has told White House officials he doesn’t want to serve in a second term and intends to leave by the end of the month.
The next Treasury secretary will play a leading role in working with Congress to raise the government’s $16.4 trillion debt ceiling. The U.S. reached the statutory limit on Dec. 31, and the Treasury Department began using extraordinary measures to finance the government. It will exhaust that avenue as early as mid-February, the Congressional Budget Office says.
Lew has spent most of his career in government, with a brief detour to Wall Street, where he worked as a managing director for Citigroup Inc. from July 2006 until joining the administration as deputy secretary of state for management and resources when Obama first took office.
Lew served as Obama’s director of the Office of Management and Budget from November 2010 to January 2012.
He held the position previously from July 1998 to January 2001, in President Bill Clinton’s administration.