Washington — President Obama has nominated White House Chief of Staff Jack Lew to serve as the secretary of the U.S. Treasury Department. If confirmed by the Senate, Lew will be in charge of overseeing U.S. financial security and will serve as the president’s chief economic adviser, replacing outgoing Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner.
Announcing Lew’s nomination at the White House January 10, Obama recalled the dire U.S. financial situation when he assumed office in 2009, when the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression was causing Americans to lose their jobs as U.S. stock and housing market values plunged.
With the help of outgoing Secretary Geithner, “our economy has been growing again for the past three years,” and along with steps to boost American industries and taxpayers, “we’ve put in place rules to prevent that kind of financial meltdown from ever happening again,” the president said.
“While a lot of work remains, especially to rebuild a strong middle class and offer working folks new pathways to rise into the middle class, our economy is better positioned for tomorrow,” Obama said, and “I cannot think of a better person to continue Tim's work at Treasury than Jack Lew.”
Before serving as the president’s chief of staff, Lew served in the Obama administration as the White House budget director and the deputy secretary of state for management and resources. Obama noted that Lew presided over three U.S. budget surpluses in a row in the 1990s while serving as White House budget director for President Bill Clinton.
“Over the past year, I’ve sought Jack’s advice on virtually every decision that I’ve made, from economic policy to foreign policy,” Obama said, adding that Lew has spent years in Washington building a reputation as “a master of policy who can work with members of both parties and forge principled compromises.”
If confirmed by the Senate, Lew would likely play a pivotal role in upcoming negotiations between the White House and the U.S. Congress as they face a deadline to raise the $16.4 trillion U.S. federal debt ceiling, as well as automatic spending cuts to the U.S. federal budget that will go into effect unless a compromise can be reached by U.S. lawmakers.
As Treasury secretary, Lew would also be a key official working with European leaders to address Europe’s economic crisis, manage economic relations with emerging powers such as China and India, and oversee the enforcement of U.S. economic sanctions.
Speaking with the president, Lew, 57, said that as a child of Polish immigrants growing up in Queens, New York, “I had dreams of making a difference in the world” and that he has felt a constant “responsibility to engage in issues of public concern.”
Lew said he had been able to work with officials in the Obama and Clinton White Houses to “execute a responsible fiscal policy while advancing policies to promote economic growth,” and said he had worked closely with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton “to advance our nation’s national security agenda, including our international economic policies.”
Under the U.S. Constitution, the president nominates high government officials such as Cabinet members, federal judges and ambassadors with the “advice and consent” of the U.S. Senate. The Senate typically exercises its role by holding committee-level confirmation hearings in which senators question the nominee and discuss his or her credentials before issuing a report on whether to recommend approval by the full Senate.
Once the committee’s report is issued, the 100-member Senate can discuss and debate the nomination and vote on whether to confirm. If a majority of senators votes to confirm, the nomination is accepted.
Speaking with the president, Geithner praised Lew as “a man of exceptional judgment, calm under pressure, with an extraordinary record of accomplishment and experience over decades spent at the center of American economic policy.”
Lew “understands what it takes to create the conditions for stronger economic growth and broader economic opportunity. And he understands that to govern responsibly is to govern with a recognition that we have limited fiscal resources,” he said.
White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters January 9 that President Obama’s top domestic priorities are economic growth and job creation, and “all the members of his economic team will be focused on those priorities in the second term.”
Carney said that over the past 25 years, Lew has been “an integral part of some of the most important budgetary, financial and fiscal agreements, bipartisan agreements, in Washington.”
Austan Goolsbee, a former chairman of Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers, told the Washington Post January 10 that Lew “is a great budget man taking over Treasury at exactly the moment that budget and tax issues have become the dominant economic issue in Washington.”