The White House Office of Management and Budget is one of the most powerful and, outside of Washington, obscure government agencies.
Running OMB ranks as one of the capital’s most thankless jobs.
On Monday, President Obama chose Sylvia Mathews Burwell for that task. Burwell, 47, had been running the Walmart Foundation since 2011 and before that the Global Development Program of another philanthropic giant, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Burwell’s nomination – she still must be confirmed by the Senate – is partial refutation of the criticism that Obama tends to staff his administration with white males.
But it is the formidable résumé she compiled during the Clinton administration that more than qualifies her for the job.
She was chief of staff to Clinton’s treasury secretary, Robert Rubin; a deputy to White House chief of staff Erskine Bowles (a major player in the deficit debate); and deputy director of OMB.
Burwell brings another credential that may be useful in the current climate:
During the Clinton administration, she became adept at dealing with a Republican-controlled Congress, although one less ideologically rigid than today’s GOP-controlled House.
She was also part of a team that pulled off four consecutive balanced budgets and even showed a surplus.
Thus, Burwell is one of the few remaining Washington power players who know what a solvent government looks like.