Position: U.S. treasury secretary
Incumbent: Jacob “Jack” Lew
Date of Birth: August 29, 1955
Term: Sworn in as 76th treasury secretary on February 28, 2013, after being approved by the Senate. Serves at the wish of the president.
- Lew served as President Barack Obama’s chief of staff before being chosen to replace Timothy Geithner, who left the top Treasury post after serving through Obama’s first term. Lew easily won confirmation in the Democratic-controlled U.S. Senate, receiving the support of 20 Republicans. But a few lawmakers were sharply critical of the large bonuses and other perks he received from previous employers Citigroup and New York University. Lew was also grilled about an investment he once had in the Cayman Islands. In his 2008 presidential campaign Obama criticized the practice of using the Cayman Islands as a tax haven.
- Bespectacled and unassuming, Lew spent most of his career in public service as a staffer and manager behind the scenes, preferring to avoid the limelight. Lew has a passion for budgets, and served as budget director under former President Bill Clinton as well as Obama.
- Lew honed his political skills as a policy adviser to Democratic House Speaker Tip O‘Neill, who is still touted as a symbol of bipartisanship because he worked with a Republican White House to change the tax code and the Social Security retirement program in the 1980s. As Obama’s budget chief, Lew led talks with Congress in 2011 that brought a deal to avert a U.S. debt default, though he antagonized some Republicans with his unwavering defense of government-run benefit programs, including the Medicaid healthcare insurance for the poor and disabled.
- The choice of Lew as the administration’s top economic official signals the importance Obama places on ongoing battles in Washington over the U.S. government’s budget. Lew’s bipartisan credentials could come in handy as he is expected to take the lead in difficult talks with Congress on how to trim the budget and keep a lid on the nation’s $16.6 trillion debt. Lew will also have to confront a host of tricky economic topics ranging from how best to scale back the government’s role in the housing market to how to respond to China’s economic heft. In his first action as treasury chief, Lew presided over a meeting of the Financial Stability Oversight Council, a panel of the country’s top banking and market regulators that is charged with preventing another financial collapse.
Reporting by Anna Yukhananov; Editing by Paul Simao