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January 10, 2013
Obama Nominates New Treasury Secretary
by Kent Klein
President Barack Obama nominated his White House chief of staff, Jack Lew, to replace Timothy Geithner as Treasury Secretary Thursday.
Obama said he has complete trust in Lew, who has three decades of experience shaping U.S. economic policy.
"One reason Jack has been so effective in this town is because he is a low-key guy who prefers to surround himself with policy experts rather than television cameras,” Obama said.
As the federal government struggles with budget and debt issues, Obama highlighted Lew’s experience as President Bill Clinton’s budget director during the 1990s.
“Under President Clinton, he presided over three budget surpluses in a row. So 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.
Lew said he is grateful for the opportunity to lead a key component of the administration’s financial team.
“If confirmed, I look forward to joining the Treasury Department, whose people are legendary for their skill and knowledge,” Lew said.
The president praised outgoing Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, who took office in 2009, in the middle of the U.S. financial crisis. Obama said Geithner will go down in history as “one of our finest secretaries of the Treasury.”
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Geithner credited the president’s policies with easing the crisis.
“And you made the necessary, the hard, the politically perilous choices that saved the American people, saved American industry, saved the global economy, from a failing financial system,” Geithner said.
Lew’s background as a government budget expert differs from Geithner's experience as a banking specialist.
Patrick Socci, dean of the business school at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, says Lew’s experience is not typical of most Treasury secretaries.
“He is certainly an intelligent man, absolutely, and he certainly has certain skills, but it is just not the typical set of skills that one would expect in a secretary of the Treasury. Either you would be an economist or you would be a high-level business person,” Socci said.
Lew’s appointment must be confirmed by the Senate, where analysts expect some opposition. As the nomination was being announced, Republican Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama released a statement saying that Lew is not “up to the task of getting America on the path to prosperity.” Still, confirmation is widely expected.
Lew has received positive reviews from leaders of business and finance. A statement from the president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Thomas Donohue, called him “a very experienced fellow on the issues of debt, deficits and budgets.”
Lew is likely to take office shortly before three fiscal deadlines. Partisan battles are expected over raising the government’s borrowing limit, averting automatic spending cuts to defense and domestic programs, and the expiration of a congressional resolution that has kept the government operating.