News Column

Senate Approves Jack Lew as Treasury Secretary

Feb 27, 2013
Jack Lew

The US Senate on Wednesday confirmed a key ally of President Barack Obama to serve as the next treasury secretary.

The Senate voted 71-26 to approve White House chief of staff Jack Lew for the position.

The move puts a key Obama confidant into the cabinet's top economic post amid ongoing economic uncertainty and crucial budget negotiations with Congress.

Obama is reshuffling his cabinet at the start of his second term, with new faces at the State Department, Defence Department and elsewhere. Earlier Wednesday, Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel began work at the Pentagon a day after being confirmed in a largely partisan vote in the Senate.

Lew received more bipartisan support than Hagel, whose past statements about Israel and Iran had haunted his confirmation, with just four Republicans joining Democrats in supporting him.

The Senate Banking Committee Tuesday cleared Lew in a 19-5 vote.

Lew, a long-time Washington insider, succeeds first-term treasury secretary Timothy Geithner, who left office on January 26.

Lew, 57, has been Obama's chief of staff since January 2012. He previously served as chief of the White House Office of Management and Budget under both Obama from 2010-12 and under president Bill Clinton from 1998-2001.

"At this critical time for our economy and our country, there is no one more qualified for this position than Jack," Obama said in a statement welcoming Lew's confirmation.

"His reputation as a master of fiscal issues who can work with leaders on both sides of the aisle has already helped him succeed in some of the toughest jobs in Washington," Obama said.

Lew told the Senate earlier this month in his confirmation hearing that the United States economy has overcome the financial crisis that Obama faced on taking office in 2009, but more progress is needed.

"We're in a better position today, but the work to create a sounder economy and a safer world remains unfinished," he said in a hearing before the Senate Finance Committee.

"Our top priority is to strengthen the recovery by fostering private sector job creation and economic growth while we make sure our economy remains resilient to the headwinds from beyond our shores."

Lew will face challenges as Obama and Congress square off on a host of budgetary issues with steep automatic spending cuts totaling 85 billion dollars for the rest of the fiscal year due to take effect Friday. Those cuts are forecast to slow US economic growth as Obama seeks to bolster the country's economic footing.

Congress must also hammer together a short-term budget deal that could see a government shutdown later this month, if the sides cannot reach agreement.

Lew's nomination was seen as an indication that Obama wants the Treasury chief to have a role in talks forge a compromise that tackles the country's debt problem.

As a congressional staffer early in his career, he participated in negotiations that led to a 1983 agreement that increased revenue for the Social Security pension scheme, which was in imminent financial crisis at the time.

In the Clinton White House, Lew helped negotiate the 1997 Balanced Budget Act before delivering three surplus budgets as OMB director, an achievement unrivaled in the last several decades.

Source: Copyright 2013 dpa Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH

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