WASHINGTON — The Senate confirmed Jacob Lew to be Treasury secretary, affirming President Barack Obama’s choice of a budget expert at a time when Congress and the White House are at odds over sharp government spending cuts.
The Senate voted 71-26 to support the nomination.
Lew, 57, had most recently served as Obama’s chief of staff. He succeeds Timothy Geithner, who completed a tumultuous four-year term in which he helped lead the administration’s response to the financial crisis and recession.
He takes over just before automatic spending cuts are set to take effect. He’s likely to take part in any negotiations to reverse the cuts, and also in key budget talks next month to continue funding the government.
Lew began his government service in the 1980s as an aide to House Speaker Tip O’Neill. He brings nearly three decades of government service to the job, including two stints as White House budget director.
“Mr. Lew is well-qualified to be the nation’s next Treasury secretary,” said Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus of Montana. “He has demonstrated time and again that he has the knowledge and expertise” to deal with the country’s budget problems.
But Republican Sen. Jeff Session of Alabama, who opposed the nomination, said Lew is the architect of the Obama’s administration’s budget. Sessions said that budget doesn’t reduce the deficit enough.
During his confirmation hearing, Lew signaled no major economic policy changes. He advocated a balanced approach to reducing the long-term budget deficit through spending cuts and additional tax revenue.
President Obama is set to nominate White House Chief of Staff Jack Lew as his next Treasury secretary, choosing a longtime expert on the nation’s budget challenges, as the country faces an imminent battle over the debt limit, according to two people familiar with the matter.
Lew previously served as Obama’s budget director and a senior State Department official. He also was budget director during the Clinton administration and has been negotiating bipartisan compromises over taxes and spending since the 1980s, when he was a top aide to then-House Speaker Thomas P. ‘Tip’ O’Neill Jr. (D-Mass.).
Lew’s nomination means that Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner, Obama’s longest-serving economic adviser, will step down, likely by the end of the month.
Lew will be taking over Treasury at a time of serious challenges to the nation’s economic picture. Congress is facing a battle over raising the $16.4 trillion debt limit, as well as a clash over how to stop deep spending cuts, which are set to take effect in early March. A continuing resolution funding the government expires later that month, setting the stage for battle that could lead to a government shutdown.
The nomination also means that Obama will have to choose a new chief of staff. Ron Klain, a former chief of staff to Vice President Biden, is among the rumored candidates, as is Denis McDonough, a deputy national security adviser.
Lew’s nomination is the latest as Obama rounds out his second-term team. This week, he nominated former senator Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) as his next secretary of defense and counterterrorism adviser John O. Brennan as director of the CIA.
All the wingnuts who were shrieking and screaming that Chuck Hagel is an Anti-Semite!1! and Obama is an Anti-Semite!1! OBAMA TOTALLY PWNZ U.