President Obama last week praised White House Chief of Staff Jack Lew, his nominee for Treasury secretary, as someone who has his “complete trust” and has “built a reputation as a master of policy who can work with members of both parties and forge principled compromises.”
Lew served two stints as White House budget director, first in the Clinton administration and then under Obama. He also held a variety of other positions in government and the private sector.
If confirmed by the Senate, Lew would succeed Tim Geithner, who is leaving the administration after serving as Treasury secretary throughout Obama’s first term. The President praised Geithner as a “steady hand” who played a key role in helping the economy recover after a severe recession.
Lew was heavily involved in the intense political battle over the federal budget and the debt limit in 2011, and some Republicans have voiced concerns about his nomination as Treasury secretary. Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, the ranking Republican on the Senate Budget Committee, voiced particularly strong opposition to Lew for earlier congressional testimony about the administration’s budget that Sessions described as “outrageous and false.”
Robert L. Bixby, executive director of The Concord Coalition, said he thought that Lew would like for the administration to make a deficit-reduction deal with Republicans and would be willing to accept some changes in entitlement programs as part of such an agreement.
“The funny thing is that Lew came in as somebody who could strike deals,” Bixby said. “He had brokered deals with Reagan and O’Neill, and Clinton and Gingrich. Now Republicans are saying they can’t work with him. . . . I don’t know if something has changed about Jack Lew or something changed about the Republican Party.”