Obama nominates Lew to succeed Geithner at Treasury
By Roberta Rampton and David Lawder ,ReutersWASHINGTON -- U.S. President Barack Obama on Thursday nominated his chief of staff, Jack Lew, as the next Treasury secretary, praising him as a expert on the pressing national issues of U.S. government spending cuts and deficit reduction.
January 12, 2013, 12:00 am TWN
If confirmed by the Senate as expected, Lew would succeed Timothy Geithner and take the lead on difficult negotiations with Congress on how to cut the nation's massive debt and rein in spending — a central challenge for Obama's second term.
Lew, a 57-year-old New Yorker who has previously served as White House budget chief, is likely to face tough questions from Republicans in his Senate Finance Committee confirmation hearing after the bruising year-end battle over tax increases on the wealthy.
Obama described Lew as “a low-key guy who prefers to surround himself with policy experts rather than television cameras,” and said the son of a Polish immigrant had a deep belief in public service.
“Over the years, he's built a reputation as a master of policy who can work with members of both parties and forge principled compromises,” Obama said.
Denis McDonough, Obama's deputy national security adviser, is considered the leading candidate to replace Lew as White House chief of staff.
Lew has experience in tough financial negotiations, having led talks with Congress in 2011 that brought a deal to avert a U.S. debt default. A similar battle looms now.
As budget director for former President Bill Clinton, he presided over a string of budget surpluses between 1998 and 2000. “For all the talk out there about deficit reduction, making sure our books are balanced, this is the guy who did it, three times,” Obama said.
Next Step: Senate
Lew's nomination now will be vetted by the Senate, where Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus, a Democrat, promised a “speedy but thorough” hearing. No date has yet been set.
Senator Orrin Hatch, the top Republican on the panel, said he plans to ask Lew about the administration's strategy for spending cuts, something Republicans have insisted needs to be made clear before they will agree to raise the debt ceiling.
Obama has vowed not to negotiate over the debt ceiling, which could be reached as early as mid-February.