Senate approves Lew as Treasury chief

WASHINGTON Thu Feb 28, 2013 9:42am EST

1 of 2. Jack Lew, U.S. President Barack Obama's nominee to lead the Treasury Department, appears before a Senate Finance Committee confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington February 13, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Gary Cameron

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Senate on Wednesday confirmed Jack Lew as President Barack Obama's new Treasury secretary, putting the former White House chief of staff in the middle of political brawls over the government's budget.

Senators backed Lew 71-26, with all 50 Democrats present voting in favor.

Lew's most pressing task will be to find a compromise to lessen the economic blow from $85 billion in government spending cuts set to kick in on Friday.

But two more deadlines will quickly follow. Funds for most government operations expire on March 27, and the U.S. government is expected to hit its legal borrowing limit on May 19, setting the stage for a default unless an agreement can be secured to raise the debt ceiling again.

Lew was Obama's chief of staff before the president named him to succeed Timothy Geithner at the Treasury, and has spent much of his career in Washington in public service. He was previously White House budget director under Obama and former President Bill Clinton.

"As my chief of staff, Jack was by my side as we confronted our nation's toughest challenges," Obama said after the Senate vote. "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."

Lew is expected take the lead on difficult talks with Congress on how to trim U.S. budget deficits and keep a lid on $16.6 trillion U.S. national debt.

STAFF MENTALITY?

Lew, 57, led talks with Congress in 2011 that averted a U.S. debt default. At the time, he antagonized Republicans and even some Democrats with his unwavering defense of government-run benefit programs.

His status as an Obama confidant may give him more authority in representing the administration during fiscal talks. But his close relationship with the White House has also raised some hackles.

"He's got a political staff mentality, not an august, independent personality of leadership," said Senator Jeff Sessions, the top Republican on the Senate Budget Committee, who had pressed lawmakers to vote against Lew.

During the confirmation process, Lew also had to confront questions about his investment in the Cayman Islands tax haven and a nearly $1 million bonus he received from Citigroup in 2009, just before the bank got a taxpayer-funded bailout.

And Republican Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa berated Lew for not disclosing more details about a $1.4 million loan he received while working as an executive with New York University.

LONG TO-DO LIST

Senator Max Baucus of Montana, the Democrat who chairs the Finance Committee, had wondered if Lew had sufficient gravitas to be the chief U.S. economic spokesman during a committee hearing this month.

But he later endorsed Lew for the post, commending his commitment to bipartisanship.

"If confirmed, we'll be entrusting Mr. Lew to oversee America's economic policy," Baucus said before the Senate vote. "It is a great responsibility, one I believe Mr. Lew will live up to."

Lawmakers in both parties praised Lew when he said revamping the byzantine U.S. tax code would be a top priority. But prospects for achieving tax reform are clouded by Washington's constant fiscal fights.

The new secretary also will also have to deal with the growing clout of China.

He has pledged to press the world's second-largest economy to further loosen its currency restrictions. Lawmakers have complained China keeps the value of the yuan artificially low to boost its exports, hurting American manufacturers.

Other delicate tasks for Lew include implementing new financial regulations and finding a way to wind down government-controlled mortgage finance giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which have drawn almost $190 billion from the Treasury.

(This story corrects number of Democrats voting to 50 from 53 in Feb. 27 story)

(Reporting by Anna Yukhananov and Rachelle Younglai; Editing by Mohammad Zargham, Xavier Briand and Vicki Allen)

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Comments (3)
Harry079 wrote:
You couldn’t have better Treasury Secretary than someone who got big bonuses for just being on a job, had or still has accounts in the tax haven Caymen Islands and was one of the main players behind the Sequester Bill.

Makes total sense to me.

Feb 27, 2013 10:23pm EST  --  Report as abuse
AdamSmith wrote:
Jack Lew would not have been appointed by Obama unless Lew, like Timothy Geithner before him, is totally owned by the wealthy criminal class, one of them.

Lew is a Citicorp banker, the inner sanctum of the wealthy criminal class of multinational corporations who have sold out the American middle class for globalization.

Any business grouping of humans sitting at a table, from tribal times to today, from small-town tiny partnerships to multinational corporations — naturally tend to say, in their meetings, “It’s us against the world.” And it is.

After all, life itself is a competitive struggle. And business is especially so.

The PROBLEM is that the populace of any given country erroneously believe that the corporations that are legally chartered in their country have Patriotic notions.

A patriotic corporation? Nothing could be further from the truth. Corporation chartered in America — like Citicorp, Goldman, Exxon, IBM, Apple, Intel, Googl, Boeing — are legally created, by a legal document, to do what’s in the interest of their shareholders, period.

That’s why you see these American-chartered companies routinely outsourcing American jobs, selling and divulging American technology to foreign partners, selling weapons to foreign governments, importing low-wage foreign H1B Visa engineers to replace American engineers, and allowing the foreign engineers to take their newly learned skills back to their home countries to compete against America.

In short, corporations, whether American-chartered, Spanish-chartered, or Mexican-chartered, have zero patriotic notions. Patriotism is not part of the human-corporate-animal. How could we expect otherwise?

All large corporations doing business in America are not here to do the American people a favor. Rather the American people are its prey.

Obama chose Jack Lew because Obama is enthralled by the wealthy, and courts them assiduously. Obama has accepted their large donations, and is completely owned by them. Obama constantly helps them, the criminal wealthy class, sell out the American middle class.

Feb 27, 2013 11:00pm EST  --  Report as abuse
FVCKnMiggers wrote:
Calling ALL Current and Ex Military Men and Women.
Please Please Please Dear God help us Now Now Now!

Feb 27, 2013 11:08pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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